PUFFER Is an Origami-Inspired Mars Rover

Mars rover

NASA developed PUFFER, an origami-inspired rover which can access remote corners of Mars’ surface

Space exploration missions have gained spread lately, as many space agencies are trying to develop new robots and rovers suitable for a detailed exploration of Mars. As the surface of the Red Planet is a little tricky to explore, NASA decided to create an interesting rover. PUFFER is the new exploration robot with technology inspired from origami.

How did PUFFER appear?

PUFFER, or Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot, was developed in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. Jaakko Karras is the leader of the project. He and his team were testing some origami designs, when they thought of developing such a device by using printed circuit boards.

PUFFER is a device with a lightweight structure. It is extremely flexible and foldable. It can tuck its wheels inside and become flat. Thus, it is perfect for a harsh surface like that of Mars, as it can access and explore places that other rovers cannot reach.

The perfect candidate for the Mars rover title

The NASA researchers put PUFFER through serious tests. They looked at how it can cope with harsh terrains, from sand areas to fields covered in snow. Thus, PUFFER had to meet rugged conditions starting with the Mojave Desert in California, and ending up in the frozen vastness of Antarctica.

Initially, they devised the robot with four wheels but, at present, it only has two wheels which can be folded. The wheel can fold over the body, thus allowing the robot to crawl into inaccessible places. Also, PUFFER is fashioned with a tail which provides it with stability, and a “microimager”, which actually represent a high-resolution camera.

The machine is powered by some solar panels, and it can climb a slope of up to 45 degrees and survive falling into pits or abrupt craters. Scientists are really optimistic about the utility of the robot, and it is always on the list of ‘companions’ for larger robots that are soon to leave for another Mars exploration.

PUFFER is incredibly practical, as it has an integrated circuit board. It involves no other parts which are attached to it, so it can function on its own and reach difficult locations. This is what makes it the perfect candidate for the perfect Martian rover.

The robot still needs to undergo some testing before it can be sent on the Martian surface. Researchers plan to make PUFFER more autonomous, and equip it with gear which identifies the molecules that contain carbon.


Image Source: Wikimedia Commons


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