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Stanford Team Developing Spiked Robots To Explore Phobos

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the target-practice-for-doom dept.

Mars 49

cylonlover writes "Robot hedgehogs on the moons of Mars may sound like the title of a B-grade sci-fi movie, but that is what Stanford University is working on. Marco Pavone, an assistant professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and his team are developing spherical robots called 'hedgehogs' that are about half a meter (1.6 ft) wide and covered in spikes to better cope with rolling and hopping across the surface of the Martian moon Phobos with its very low gravity."

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red banner (0)

605dave (722736) | about 2 years ago | (#42449755)

Having this headline show up as a red banner was actually kind of alarming. It made me want to be sure where these spiked robots were headed.

Re:red banner (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451083)

The red banner means the article just came live. (Actually I think it's supposed to indicate a pre-live article for subscription users, but it's still red for the first minute or so.)

P.S. lurk more

already exists (0)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 2 years ago | (#42449811)

They're obviously stealing the idea from video games, as a metal robotic hedgehog already exists. Mecha Sonic ring a bell? Oh and for the record, he was on a space station in the game.

Re:already exists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42449919)

You might want to check your definition of "already exists".

Re:already exists (-1, Flamebait)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 2 years ago | (#42450145)

You might want to log in so people can mod you down.

Re:already exists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42450299)

You might want to stop arguing with AC and get back to work.

Re:already exists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42450315)

I have an achievement for "2^10 Got a Score:5 Comment". I somehow doubt that if I did get modded down that it would hurt my karma. heck, even a tool like you has positive karma, so it isn't hard.

Re:already exists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42450349)

Wait, only 2^9

Re:already exists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451815)

They're obviously stealing the idea from video games, as a metal robotic hedgehog already exists. Mecha Sonic ring a bell?

I don't know, does he ring bells? I keep losing track of Sega's 12-year-old-with-ADHD attitude of introducing new palette-swap characters to that series. Maybe "Mecha Sonic" DOES ring bells, while Silver plays the flute, Shadow does taxes, Mauve runs a fish shop, Polka Dot hosts debates, Plaid is a vigilante, and Nobody Cares Anymore runs a has-been video game company dying a slow, lonely death on a shelf somewhere because the rest of the world grew tired of not being able to tell what was a real Sonic character and what was a late-90s webcomic ripoff.

"Robot hedgehogs on the moons of Mars" (2)

DiamondGeezer (872237) | about 2 years ago | (#42449817)

I for one welcome our Martian robot hedgehog overlords.

Re:"Robot hedgehogs on the moons of Mars" (1)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | about 2 years ago | (#42450019)

Courtesy of "cylonlover." BY YOUR COMMAND.

Re:"Robot hedgehogs on the moons of Mars" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42452383)

If they are spiky all over, how do they reproduce?

Re:"Robot hedgehogs on the moons of Mars" (1)

drainbramage (588291) | about 2 years ago | (#42453687)

Carefully.

Robotic hedgehog (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42449819)

Can I use the sonic controls? Because you may have a number of 20 something year-old people who are going to be pre-trained to steer that.

little punk rock robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42449821)

all blasting out early judas priest for all of the heavens soothing enjoyment

I don't get it (4, Interesting)

Dunbal (464142) | about 2 years ago | (#42449839)

How does reducing the actual surface area in contact with the ground help it stay on a moon with low gravity? Or are the "spikes" expected to sink into the "dust" or something? What happens when this thing drives over a rock?

Re:I don't get it (3, Interesting)

DiamondGeezer (872237) | about 2 years ago | (#42449951)

The problem with low gravity is low friction. So in order to drive across a body with low gravity, you need to increase the effective coefficient of friction (or increase the mass, which makes it more expensive to get there).

In answer to your second question, you keep the speed down.

On the other hand if you need to jump across something, then just a little boost will do it...

Re:I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42450029)

are the spikes and dust somehow ironic?

Re:I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42450137)

The solid friction coefficient doesn't depend on the surface area in contact with the ground. At least in high school physics.

Re:I don't get it (4, Informative)

bws111 (1216812) | about 2 years ago | (#42450321)

The spikes aren't providing traction or propulsion, they are holding it above the surface. It moves by inertia. There are three spinning disks that they change the rotation of, and that change in rotation makes the thing 'fall over', and hence move.

Re:I don't get it (2)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 2 years ago | (#42452791)

The spikes aren't providing traction or propulsion, they are holding it above the surface. It moves by inertia. There are three spinning disks that they change the rotation of, and that change in rotation makes the thing 'fall over', and hence move.

Also, they keep the solar panels covering the thing off the ground. Solar panels don't last long when used as a wheel.

Re:I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42457277)

Still doesn't solve the issue of dust which is going to get all over them from the spikes rolling across the ground.

Seems poorly thought out.

Re:I don't get it (1)

shaitand (626655) | about 2 years ago | (#42457745)

You should tell them. Give them a stern warning about the consequences of giving their project less thought than a Slashdot AC again!

Re:I don't get it (1)

stoneoffire (1750908) | about 2 years ago | (#42453141)

Did you even read the article? I know, I know, blasphemy.....

Re:I don't get it (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 2 years ago | (#42455947)

I think it is more that the surface of the probe is going to have fragile equipment on it like sensors and solar cells. They can't just let it roll around like that because this things will get wrecked. Rolling on the spikes means that the gear on the outside of the probe will be protected and in a posititon to examine the surface of the moon. Additionally there won't be much need to control attitide. Attitide control can be tricky on a small moon because it may not be obvious which way is "down".

Infocom (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42449943)

Should fit in well with the Leather Godesses.

Gateway To Hell Option? (1)

FlamingAtheist (1282446) | about 2 years ago | (#42449947)

Corporate sponsorship is by Union Aerospace Corporation, what could possibly go wrong....

Re:Gateway To Hell Option? (1)

egr (932620) | about 2 years ago | (#42450055)

Not to worry! If anything goes wrong they'll send a squad of marines, and leave one guy with a pistol to guard the hangar outside just in case.

Already Saw The Movie (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 2 years ago | (#42450159)

spherical robots... that are about half a meter (1.6 ft) wide and covered in spikes

The Tall Man [wikipedia.org] approves!

Waste of money. (1)

dlmarti (7677) | about 2 years ago | (#42450187)

Given that Phobos is most likely a captured body, this does not seem like a good return on the investment.

Re:Waste of money. (5, Funny)

vlm (69642) | about 2 years ago | (#42450217)

Given that Phobos is most likely a captured body, this does not seem like a good return on the investment.

Why, do they expect to be charged with receipt of stolen property?

Re:Waste of money. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42450971)

Given that Phobos appears to be made of some of the same stuff Mars is made of, and has a circular equatorial orbit around a planet with a thin atmosphere, the capture theory seems unlikely. But if it were captured, figuring out how the heck that happened would give us a lot of insight into the early solar system.

Re:Waste of money. (1)

dlmarti (7677) | about 2 years ago | (#42451381)

No, but I would hope there would be a better use of our very limited NASA budget.

Re:Waste of money. (1)

surd1618 (1878068) | about 2 years ago | (#42450381)

Phobos is estimated to be ~30% empty space. There might be cavities inside that could be filled with SP breathable mix and inhabited by people for as long as low gravity allows.

Re:Waste of money. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42450569)

It depends - a shallow gravity well means that it's insanely cheap to extract resources for use in orbit.

Bad Shipment (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42450225)

Instead of our shipment of spiky ball robots, we got these useless crates of chainsaws... What the hell do we need chainsaws on mars for?!

Re:Bad Shipment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42451127)

For when you run out of shotgun shells.

Dr. Robotnik & Metal Sonic? (1)

gapagos (1264716) | about 2 years ago | (#42450417)

Am I the only one who is suddenly stuck with a Dr. Robotnik / Metal Sonic from Sonic the Hedgehog song stuck in my head now?

KINO's big brother? (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | about 2 years ago | (#42450425)

So we can't make a levitating [wikia.com] version so we go big and spiky?

I Misread the Title as... (1)

AdamStarks (2634757) | about 2 years ago | (#42450461)

"Stanford Team Developing Spiked Robots To Explore Robots"

My initial reaction was "Poor robots :("

Spiked... (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 2 years ago | (#42450835)

So how do they spike a robot? Do they add some meth to the hydrazine? Thank you, I'll be here all week...

You spelled "Hobos" wrong. (1)

wiedzmin (1269816) | about 2 years ago | (#42450901)

You spelled "Hobos" wrong.

Reminescent design (1)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | about 2 years ago | (#42451291)

The design looks a lot like something out of the account of a credible individual in the UK who has suffered from an Alien Abduction experience. He describes spheres with much fewer feet than the NASA version, and how they pivoted and rolled to make a path of animal-like foot prints.

Source; the following remarkable series:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_C._Clarke's_Mysterious_World#U.F.O.s_-_4_November_1980 [wikipedia.org]

Re:Reminescent design (1)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | about 2 years ago | (#42451341)

Sorry, replying to my own post, but I decided to take a screenshot from the source I mentioned:

http://i.imgur.com/myOi3.jpg [imgur.com]

He's the fastest thing alive... (1)

PhyrexStrike (2777377) | about 2 years ago | (#42451975)

The real questions are: are they blue? and, can they go fast?

Sounds like "Willis" from Red Planet (2)

SpaceManFlip (2720507) | about 2 years ago | (#42452419)

Robert Heinlein's ideas are once again prophetic. In the book Red Planet the adventuresome protagonist has a pet/friend Martian named Willis who is a spherical native animal that mostly moves by rolling and bouncing along. The "bouncer" creatures also extended appendages for movement or sensing things (spikes?).

Re:Sounds like "Willis" from Red Planet (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 2 years ago | (#42456061)

More like 90% of the people designing space vehicles these days grew up on Heinlein juveniles.

Metric is fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42452609)

Must we convert 0.5 meters to feet for the reader here?

Terrahawks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42456073)

Were there not spherical robots on that series?

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