'ATHLETE.' NASA's Next Robot Walker To Build A Moon Base
In NASA’s continued ambition to further space exploration, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory has designed the next rover to build and supply a future lunar base. The ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer) is designed to tackle any terrain the moon could throw at it, while transporting tools, equipment and personnel in the process.
The main feature is the six bendable “spider” legs that have wheels at the base to allow quick movement over flat-ish terrain, anything it can’t drive over, it steps (or jumps) over. Each leg also doubles up as an operational tool, from drills to grippers. When it comes to transportation ATHLETE is able to split and reform around a specially designed base, so that it can lift up objects securely.
Currently only a half size prototype has been produced for the hefty sum of $2 Million, but it has demonstrated the concept is sound. NASA has said the full 26 foot version could be operational and in space by 2017.