ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer) is a large six-legged robotic
lunar roverunder development by NASA.
The first prototype is greater than 4 meters in diameter with more than 6 m reach, and is designed to be able to both roll and walk for maximum efficiency over a wide range of terrains. The ultimate goal of the project is to develop a multi-purpose system capable of docking or mating with special-purpose devices, including a launchable/releasable grappling hook, refueling stations, excavation implements, and/or special end effectors. The legs have 6 degrees of freedom for generalized robotic manipulation. Each ATHLETE is intended to have a payload capacity of 450 kg, with the capability of docking multiple ATHLETE vehicles together to support larger loads.
The project's goals are:
* Able to move at 10 km/h over terrain similar to that found at the Apollo landing sites
* Climb vertical steps of at least 70% of the maximum stowed dimension of the vehicle
* Climb slopes of 35° on rock and 25° on soft sand
* Be stowed and docked compactly for launch into an annular ring so that many vehicles can be efficiently stacked around a main payload on a single lander
* Self-deploy from compact storage on lunar landers
* Traverse almost any terrain, including vertical rock faces or sandy slopes at the angle of repose by using a launchable/releasable grappling hook
ATHLETE's purpose is to support lunar exploration operations. One hypothetical mission scenario features a mobile manned "base" supported by ATHLETEs, capable of traversing thousands of kilometers and setting down temporarily to study interesting features along the way. [ [http://space.newscientist.com/article/dn13590-giant-robots-could-carry-lunar-bases-on-their-backs.html Giant robots could carry lunar bases on their backs - space - 04 April 2008 - New Scientist Space ] ]
* [http://www-robotics.jpl.nasa.gov/systems/system.cfm?System=11 JPL Robotics: System: The ATHLETE Rover]
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