NASA Tests a Robot That Looks Like a Snake to Look for Life in the Solar System

A snake-like explorer that is intended to look for evidence of life in difficult-to-reach areas is being tested by NASA, the US space agency. The Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor, or EELS, is the name of the robot. According to NASA, the robot has mobility capabilities that conventional rovers, or exploration vehicles, do not. Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California are leading the construction of the explorer. EELS is designed to explore without human intervention in real time. According to NASA engineers, it is intended to function on land, in the sea, and in extremely cold temperatures. Currently, several environments are being used to evaluate the existing model. Future progress will be determined on how the current model performs.

The researchers claimed that NASA’s goal to look for evidence of life in an ocean on Saturn’s moon Enceladus was the inspiration behind the creation of the snake-like robot. It is believed that ocean exists beneath the frozen surface of the moon. The present iteration of EELS is four meters long and weighs approximately 100 kilos. It consists of ten similar screws that can rotate in different orientations. The screws travel across surfaces by creating an auger effect. The robot’s components can move up and down to reach various locations for data collection. Both metal and plastic screws that were 3D printed have been used in the tests. While the metal screws have worked well in ice, the plastic ones have done better overall.

JPL’s chief investigator for the EELS project is Hiro Ono. In a statement, he added that the construction of the robot necessitates completely different approaches than those applied to conventional spacecraft and explorers. Ono highlighted that a lot of knowledge existed regarding how to create a four-wheeled vehicle. He claimed that there is no textbook on how to create an autonomous snake robot that can daringly venture where no robot has gone before. “We must compose our own. That’s what we’re now doing. According to the inventors, owing of the communications delays between Earth and deep space, EELS is intended to function independently. Therefore, the team’s goal is to enable environmental sensing in the robot’s technology.

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