Nasa uploaded a video on Wednesday (18 November) showcasing its first Super Ball Bot prototype in action. The video showcases examples of the robot's impact robustness and locomotion, capturing the ball-like designed robot surviving a fall from a loading dock and demonstrates how it moves around, rolling through the surrounding terrain.
Nasa said the prototype featured in the video wasn't designed with high speed landing scenarios in mind, but rather to survive a meter-high fall with ease, one that would seriously damage a traditionally designed robot.
According to Nasa's official website future space missions will ideally consist of small collapsible robot teams (similar to this bot) weighing up to a few kilograms each. The whole team, would be packed together during launch, up until they reach their destination at which point the robots would separate and unpack. This will hopefully help Nasa rapidly explore tricky destinations such as Titan where a single robot exploration is problematic due to factors such as imprecise terrain knowledge.
Nasa stated on their website that the delicate design of the robot requires a complex combination of different devices and that's why a radically different robot is being developed, one built using tensile and compression elements. Nasa also said the new robots will be multi-purposed, allowing for simplified mission profiles and lower costs. They will hopefully play an important role in the planetary exploration in the years to come.