Science Information

Moon Rover Robotic Concept; Planetary Exploration


I propose a beach ball hopping robotic planetary explorer, which could work in swarms, instead of a larger rover, which might be stuck in the lunar dust or red sands of Mars. One interesting concept is in a white paper by Paolo Fiorini entitled; "A Hopping Robot for Planetary Exploration" in which the robot has several design configurations all weighing considerable amount.

In my design, the outer parameter of the sphere or beach ball would be made of a skin which consisted of solar cells to charge up an interior ion-lithium battery would run the mechanism. Although in the Fiorini model the weight is significant their model might be good for the Moon or Mars where the gravity is less, however on a larger planet their unit is problematic. Where as a lighter more agile unit would indeed out perform the other theoretical models.

In my design there would be a "jumping jack" interior mechanism with pistons which would activate to keep a steady motion while rolling or a quick interior motion for catapulting over an object or to get out of a hole, clear a ditch or jump up on a ledge. The haptic mechanism inside would not puncture the outer skin in any way, but only slightly deform it as it rolls. The ends of the humping jack would actually be attached to the inside skin of the ball. If the unit ran out of juice it could also be powered by a laser onto the solar cells; by use of a capturing device between each solar cell. With such power it could bounce very high or clear larger reveens on planets with less gravity while moving well on larger planets with more gravity. Indeed it could also work quite well on Earth as a robotic sentinel alert system. If such devices worked in swarms the energy would be carried under the skin and on the jumping jack feet to the center sphere containing such things as sensor devices. I believe that the Fiorini model would have the same problem of getting stuck in the sand as the current rover on Mars and could have severe problems on hills, where my design would not have to worry about such obstacles. Rather than redesign the cylinders pistons of the Fiorini unit, I would incorporate their unit expect the materials would be composite carbon fiber and lightweight. Due to the lightweight of my unit I do not need the "Navy Landing Gear" toughness of their heavier unit, as my unit would weigh next to nothing. My unit would also use the micro controller board designed by Cal Tech at JPL. The little weight would mean that less cost to deliver.

All sensors in my unit would work from the inside thru the beach ball. An operator could tele-robotically control one unit, which would be net-centric wireless to the other units, all of which would have RFID satellite chips to know their positions. I would not change their unit's software. These units could work autonomously in the swarm or by way of one or two units with the tele-robotics running the rest similar to the JSF running many drone UAVs.

The pistons would also absorb shock and in doing so charge the battery with a friction charger unit on the inside of the pistons. Small rockets could be placed into the units for exiting the area or region. Groups or swarms would each have different tasks and the beach balls would be pretty to alien species and friends? Think about it.

"Lance Winslow" - If you have innovative thoughts and unique perspectives, come think with Lance; www.WorldThinkTank.net/wttbbs


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