Issa Nesnas, principal investigator, AXEL rover
We have the Axel rover. This is a new rover concept that we've been studying in collaboration with Caltech to try to provide mobility for very challenging, high-risk terrains. So the best way to think about this rover is, think of a yo-yo. By reeling and unreeling its own tether that it carries with it, it's able to lower itself over any type of terrain. Actually, in fact, it doesn't need any terrain. This can be lowered from a balloon.
Pablo Abad-Manterola, graduate student, California Institute of Technology
It presents a lot of unique and interesting challenges that no one has ever though of before, in terms of the type of tether to use to the material, how to reduce abrasions, and how to get over rocks without getting the tether tangled.
This robot has met and exceeded all of my expectations, just in terms of the way that it's performed, going down 90-degrees slopes, traversing to flat ground and getting over rocks, and all that kind of stuff. It's been great.
Right now, it's really risky for astronauts or robots, for example, like Spirit an Opportunity to go into craters. The ground is too loose and the slopes are too steep. So it's too risky for those robots to get into those craters and perform any interesting science. So this robot would be very useful for those types of scenarios, where you can really dive into those craters, pick up some samples, and really analyze them and tell us something really new and interesting about Mars or the moon, for example.