Robot snakes on Mars is not the premise of a new movie starring Samuel L. Jackson, but rather, a real possibility in space exploration and the coolest science story we’ve heard in the past ten minutes.
If there’s any clear sign we need to invest more in NASA, it’s that robot snakes aren’t even an American initiative.
The European Space Agency (ESA) hatched the robot snakes plan, out-cooling us in the space race and opening up new avenues to learn more about Mars. While NASA’s rovers Curiosity and Opportunity rovers made contact with the nearby planet and learned us some interesting new things, the crafts are bulky and unwieldy — and quite like a European car, the more efficient robot snakes are being floated to get where our Hummer H2 like vehicles were unable to penetrate.
Norway’s SINTEF, a robotics company, says robot snakes and rovers can go hand in hand — and not just in your kid’s Lego set. SINTEF’s Aksel Transeth explained:
“We are looking at several alternatives to enable a rover and a robot to work together. Since the rover has a powerful energy source, it can provide the snake robot with power through a cable extending between the rover and the robot. If the robot had to use its own batteries, it would run out of power and we would lose it.”
Researcher Pål Liljebäck says that the two tools can work together to gather data on Mars, adding:
“The connection between the robot and the rover also means that the snake robot will be able to assist the vehicle if the latter gets stuck. In such a situation, the robot could lower itself to the ground and coil itself around a rock enabling the rover to pull itself loose by means of the cable winch, which the rover would normally use to pull the snake robot towards the rover.”
Prototypes for robot snakes that can be used in Mars exploration may be ready to go as early as December.