NASA’s latest creations has heads turning: Meet their robot PUFFER! The Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot was designed to fill the needs that expensive rovers like Curiosity could not.
PUFFER is tiny and able to explore the crevices of alien territory like Mars or the Moon, Motherboard reported. The light weight robot can fold to become the size of a smartphone and roll into areas that other devices wouldn’t make it out of, including lava tubes, caves, icy crevasses, and other spots most would avoid. And hills are no problem for PUFFER, who is able to scale inclines of up to 45 degrees. Plus, it can handle falls from as high as 3 meters under simulated Martian gravity, Gizmodo reported.
The robot is still in the development process, which is reportedly scheduled to take 18-months. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, UC Berkeley and Distant Focus Corporation are all part of the team that has contributed to the project.
PUFFER was created to be part of a larger spacecraft that brings smaller robots to another planet.
“A larger parent rover could use a collection of PUFFERs to explore extreme terrains that are easier to access with a small, low-cost “child” rover,” the team said in a fact sheet. “When the parent spacecraft finds an exciting region for exploration, it simply ejects one or more PUFFERs, which then pop-up and go on to explore the target of interest.”
Testing has already begun and the team has plans to bring these robots to the Mojave Desert this year, as it has similar terrain to Mars. That trip should give developers some insight into how it will fair on the planet.
To see PUFFER in action, watch the video below or check out this series of videos the space agency posted.