Surface Mobility and Robotics
As NASA and the international space community seek to unlock the scientific secrets of our solar system, the capability to operate on the surfaces of planets, moons, and small bodies (such as asteroids and comets) becomes critical to achieving mission goals. Robotic spacecraft are essential tools for solar system exploration, and APL has a rich history and world-class track record of developing and operating robotic missions for NASA. Building on our capability to produce cost-effective robotic spacecraft for flyby and orbiter missions, APL is focused on meeting the technological challenges of producing robotic systems for surface operations. Our developments will support NASA goals of human and robotic exploration on the surfaces of solar system bodies.
NASA requires further development of technologies ranging from robotic mechanisms for locomotion and dexterous manipulation and associated sensing and autonomy software to integrated systems that provide manipulation and mobility capabilities critical to the success of surface science and exploration missions. Technological advances will enable robotic operations on inhospitable surfaces in space environments that pose tough challenges to current robotic and avionics hardware.
To meet NASA's critical challenges of planetary surface mobility and robotics, APL is addressing surface operations issues associated with mobility in difficult terrain, mechanisms for material and sample manipulation, and component technology for supervised robotic autonomy. Tasks under study include application and development of robotic hardware, software and simulation tools leveraging APL spacecraft expertise and systems engineering strengths, and unmanned vehicle autonomy developments for terrestrial applications. With an aim to conceive, develop, and demonstrate practical solutions, APL technology will advance the capability of mobile robotic platforms to perform critical science and utility functions supporting future NASA surface missions.