Mori3 transformer robot to help astronauts colonize Mars

The research team of the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland is actively working on the creation of a robot that will be able to help astronauts during interplanetary missions, in particular on Mars. The innovative transformer robot called Mori3 is able to change its shape, size and functionality, turning from flat 2D triangles into any three-dimensional object.

“Our goal with Mori3 is to create a modular robot, just like origami, that can be assembled and disassembled depending on the needs of the environment and the tasks set,” says Jamie Paik, director of the Robotics Laboratory and co–author of a recently published scientific article detailing this project.

The triangular modular design of the Mori3 allows it to easily connect with its companions. Photo: EPFL RRL

According to Paik, the Mori3 is great for space missions because it can be customized to different shapes according to the desired task. Although at the beginning the team plans to use it for external repairs and communication, it can be adapted to new tasks that will arise during the missions. It is also important that the robot can be kept in a horizontal position, which saves space during a long mission with the crew.

Reinterpretation of robotics

Mori3 consists of triangular modules that are interconnected to form polygons of various sizes and configurations. Paik acknowledges that a universal robot like Mori3 may be less efficient than specialized robots in certain areas, but its biggest advantage is versatility. 

“We have demonstrated that polygonal mesh is a viable strategy in the field of robotics,” says Christoph H. Belke, one of the team members. However, he added that in order to achieve such results, they had to rethink approaches to robotics.

Small benefit

Many of the existing space robots are limited in their capabilities and not convenient enough to use. For example, the CIMON robot on the space station is, in fact, a movable display providing astronauts with information to perform various tasks, while the Astrobee robots perform routine tasks related to navigation, crew control and logistics management. We should also mention the robot anthropomorphic Robonaut, which is the first representative of its kind in space, but it is still far from being really useful. 

NASA has planned the first manned mission to Mars in the late 2030s, and it is likely that several robots will go with the crew, among which there may be an improved version of Mori3.

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