NASA published their rock climbing robot project. The robots called TRESSA. TRESSA is a group of three autonomous robots that work together to climb steep slopes. And by steep we mean up to 90 degree slope angles. Two of the robots, called Anchorbots, remaining at the top and support the third robot, named Cliffbot, with tethers as it negotiates the rocks. The Anchorbots dynamically adjust the tension of the tethers, allowing Cliffbot to go up, down, or across the slope. This is more complicated than it sounds as the Anchorbots have to combine the amount of tether tension needed to offset gravitational forces with anticipation of desired motion of Cliffbot. The robots also monitor themselves and each other for faults and communicate any potentially unsafe conditions to each other.
The TRESSA (Teamed Robots for Exploration and Science on Steep Areas) system, previously cited in the literature as Cliffbot (Pirjanian et al., 2002; Mumm,Farritor, Huntsberger and Schenker, 2003; Schenker et al., 2003b; Mumm, Farritor, Pirjanian, Leger and Schenker, 2004), is designed to allow access to steep slopes that are not feasible for traditional wheeled rovers.
Such steep slopes and cliffs are of significant scientific and geological interest. Vertical faces provide a large range of geological history, as evidenced by Burns Cliff in Endurance Crater and Cape Verde at Victoria
Crater on Mars.Adeep drilling mission is logistically expensive due to the size and mass of a deep drilling rig, and surface exploration only gives a single timeslice.
An autonomous or semi-autonomous robotic ability to access steeply sloped areas is critical for lunar and planetary surfaces, where human exploration may be decades away. Additionally, there may be planetary or terrestrial cliff sites of scientific interest that are too remote or dangerous for humans to safely explore. Traditional wheeled robotic vehicles are unable to traverse cliff faces; vehicles such as Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) are not statically stable beyond about 45 deg and cannot climb slopes greater than about 30 deg. There are two objectives that must be addressed for realistic mission scenarios: safe mobility and sample acquisition on the cliff face.
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