NASA’s toed robot gripper may bring an asteroid back to Earth

nasa may use robotic arm to bring asteroid earth vehicle redirect landing
With the exception of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Mission, most of the missions to asteroids have been flybys, which give us less information than a spacecraft actually landing on one, conducting experiments, and gathering data. Though Rosetta’s Philae lander hasn’t provided all the data the agency hoped for, the mission will officially come to an end by September next year.

But to keep the quest alive, NASA has announced its plan to launch a robotic spacecraft toward a small asteroid as a part of its ambitious Asteroid Redirect Mission. The purpose of sending a robot there is to bring a small boulder lying on the surface of the asteroid back to earth, so that the scientists can analyze it more closely.

Though it hasn’t said which asteroid it might send a robot to, NASA has already developed a prototype of a robotic arm that will grip the boulder, according to Spectrum. Made up of several clawed, flexible metal “toes,” what makes this gripper perfect for grabbing onto rough surfaces is each of the 2,000 individual spines flexing independently in trios.

When the gripper is on the object’s surface, cables attached to the central hub tighten, pulling in the toes and engaging the spines. The spines release the object when the cables go slack. Neither operation requires a force to push the gripper, a plus for the microgravity environment. Still, it’s just in the prototype phase, and this might not be NASA’s final design for the arm.

Although a mission to Mars or the moon may sound more exciting, studying asteroids may give us clues about the origin of our solar system and life on our planet, as well as help us develop technologies to mine them for minerals. And we can probably learn more about halting a collision with one from an actual asteroid than we can from Armageddon.

Emerging Tech

Does a steam-powered spacecraft hold the key to exploring the solar system?

A newly developed spacecraft prototype capable of using steam as a propellent may help the first miners survey potential dig sites and identify space rocks best fit for mining missions. Future versions may be fitted with sensors, allowing…
Emerging Tech

This oddball Japanese robot will fold your clothes and do your laundry

Hate doing your own laundry? A Japanese robotics startup, Mira Robotics, created a telepresence robot which lets you hire another person to remotely fold your clothes for you through the machine.
Emerging Tech

Caltech sees supernovae, black holes ‘Ned Stark’ and ‘Jon Snow’ shredding stars

A new astronomical project has released its first set of results. It has observed more than one billion of the stars and has made a wealth of discoveries, from 50 small near-Earth asteroids to more than 1,100 supernovae.
Deals

The best iRobot Roomba deals to make cleaning your home a breeze

Keep your home clean without lifting a finger using a robot vacuum cleaner. These nine iRobot Roomba deals not only help you keep your home tidy, but many also come with advanced features such as automatic scheduling and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Emerging Tech

Atomo’s ‘molecular coffee’ is brewed without needing to harvest coffee beans

Coffee beans, huh? Who needs ‘em? Apparently not the folks behind Seattle-based startup Atomo, who claim to have created a cup of "molecular coffee" that requires no beans to be harvested.
Emerging Tech

Forget police helicopters, California cops are using drones to spot suspects

Police drones deployed by California’s Chula Vista Police Department helped lead to the arrest of 20 suspects over a three-month study. It's a glimpse of the future of drones in law enforcement.
Smart Home

Ford’s ingenious bed for couples keeps mattress hogs in their own half

Drawing on its driverless-car technology, Ford has created a smart bed for couples that uses sensors and a conveyor belt to prevent either occupant from straying onto the other half of the mattress while they doze.
Emerging Tech

Own a drone? New rule means you have to change the way IDs are displayed

Registered drone owners will need to put their machine's ID number on the outside of the aircraft from February 23 in accordance with a new FAA rule. It means the ID can no longer be placed inside the drone's battery compartment.
Emerging Tech

After Kepler kicks the bucket, NASA releases its final image

The final images from the Kepler Space Telescope have arrived. After nearly a decade of operation, NASA’s groundbreaking telescope ran out of fuel last year and was placed into permanent sleep mode on October 30, 2018.
Emerging Tech

Caltech’s bird-inspired robot uses thrusters to help stay on its feet

Researchers from Caltech have developed a new bird-inspired robot that uses thrusters on its torso to help it to walk with more stability. Here's why that challenge is so important.
Mobile

T-Mobile says Sprint merger will boost 5G speeds by up to 6 times

2019 will be a huge year for T-Mobile. Not only is a merger with Sprint likely, but T-Mobile is also in the midst of building out its next-generation mobile service. Here's everything you need to know about the T-Mobile 5G rollout.
Emerging Tech

Groundbreaking new technique can turn plastic waste into energy-dense fuel

The world has a waste plastic problem. Chemists from Purdue University have a potentially game changing solution: They want to turn it into a gasoline or diesel-like fuel. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

After a record-setting 15 years, NASA ends Opportunity rover’s tour of Mars

NASA has officially called it quits on its record-setting Mars rover Opportunity, eight months after last hearing from the lander. The Rover landed on the Red Planet in early 2004.
Emerging Tech

With CabinSense, cars will soon know who’s riding in them and respond accordingly

What if your car could know who's riding in it and customize the entertainment and safety options accordingly? That’s what's promised by the new CabinSense in-car Occupancy Monitoring System.