Maybe it’s because I’m yearning for this toy robot for my grandson as a holiday gift, or maybe it’s just because robots are cool and interesting. But I really enjoyed reading about this new walking and hopping SpaceBok robot – not a toy, but a real planetary explorer – which the European Space Agency (ESA) is now helping to support, in conjunction with ETH Zurich and ZHAW Zurich University. ESA said this week it’s testing this robot in its Mars Yard – a 26-feet-square (8-meter-square) “sandbox,” filled with different sizes of sand, gravel and rock – part of the Planetary Robotics Laboratory in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. Click here for pics of the Mars Yard.
SpaceBok team member Patrick Barton said:
Legged robots can traverse unstructured terrain and could be used to explore areas of interest, such as craters, which rovers are unable to reach. As they are very versatile, they can change gait to adapt to different terrain.
Team member Elias Hampp explained:
In contrast to other legged robots, SpaceBok is primarily built for hopping. While this is not particularly useful on Earth, it could reach a height of four metres on the moon. This would allow for a fast and efficient way of moving forward.
And team member Radek Zenkl added:
We are currently implementing and testing vision sensors, to increase SpaceBok’s autonomy and robustness.
Not convinced yet that the SpaceBok robot is cool? Try this video! Can’t wait to show it to my grandson!
Bottom line: ESA is testing its SpaceBok robot as a possible moon or Mars explorer.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.