Robots with replaceable limbs are being developed for the Moon

Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are developing WORMS robots to perform various works on the surface of the Moon. According to their plan, they should be completely modular, that is, the astronauts themselves will assemble them on the spot from a set of limbs and torsos.

WORMS robot. Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

How to get rid of the “robot zoo”?

The Space Resources Workshop team, consisting of employees of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, proposes to solve the problem of robots for the Moon. A huge amount of work on its surface requires the use of various folding machines. 

At the same time, the absolute majority of them will be used only for a limited amount of time, and the rest will simply stand idle somewhere in the hangar. In fact, this “robot zoo” will simply take up space, and its effectiveness will be extremely limited.

It is proposed to solve this problem using the Walking Oligomeric Robotic Mobility System or WORMS. It represents robots, the general design of which astronauts will create from different standard parts, depending on their needs.

WORMS system

The idea of WORMS appeared to engineers during the preparation for the Breakthrough, Innovative and Game-changing (BIG) Idea Challenge, which was announced by NASA to encourage enthusiasts to create space systems. Its main requirement was the creation of a robotic system that could independently navigate and move around the complex lunar landscape.

In search of a solution to the problem, the engineers decided to look for inspiration in nature. They noted that different body shapes of animals provide the convenience of performing different types of movement. For example, it is convenient for a spider to move on vertical surfaces, and for an elephant to carry loads.

But there was one animal, the method of movement was very simple and at the same time universal — a worm. These are just a few links connected together and able to move relative to each other, and this in itself allows it to move relatively freely through a complex landscape.

But if scientists combine several of these mechanical worms together, they will be able to imitate the movements of any animal, turning into the limbs of a robot. It was such a six-legged mechanism that Space Resources Workshop presented at the international aerospace conference.

Replaceable WORMS limbs

Although the externally presented WORMS sample resembles a simple six-legged robot. But the engineers showed that just before it was assembled, the limbs and torso were completely independent systems. That is, any other configuration can be easily assembled from them.

This is facilitated by special software developed by the group. It is used in all “worms” and torsos. According to the developers, for months the astronauts will have a hangar with different basic elements, sensors, limbs-“worms” and separate “shoes” and tools for them.

Combining all this together, they will always have exactly the robot they need and at the same time all the equipment that is superfluous now will not take up too much space.

According to

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