Norwegian snake robots tested for Mars mission

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
Norwegian snake robots tested for Mars mission
The Wheeko snake robot in action - Sintef

A Norwegian university is working with the European Space Agency (ESA) to look into sending innovative snake robots to probe the planet Mars.


The group at Sintef, an independent research agency, launched an ESA-funded feasibility study this month which will look at the potential advantages and likely difficulties of using snake robots on Mars missions. 
"Snake robots potentially have the ability to get around places where rover robots can not go," Sintef researcher Aksel Andreas Transeth told The Local. "If you have a steep slope, or a rocky surface, or a tight space between rocks, a snake robot can climb or slide in between to see what's there." 
He said that this would help complement the research done on Mars's surface by wheeled rover robots. 
"The rovers as far as I understand have some limitations as to where they can go. If you have a very steep crater, then you don't send a rover down there, because you're afraid that it won't manage to climb back up." 
Transeth, who did his PHD on snake robotics, stressed that none of the existing snake robots under development around the world was yet ready to undertake a Mars mission. 
"There are no available space robots today that could descend onto Mars," he said. 
Indeed, the only snake robot commercially available today is an advanced toy released by Lego as part of its Mindstorms range.  
The European Space Agency is planning to send its first rover robot to Mars in 2018. The feasibility study is scheduled to report in December. 
Wheeko, one of the snake robot prototypes Sintef has developed, is shown in the video below. 


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