Hedgehog Robot May Bounce on Martian Moon

When I say hedgehog the odds are good that you think about either a small creature you find in your garden sometimes and the rest of you probably also think of a certain blue video game character. Few of you probably thing of deep space exploration, but that is exactly the model that the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at NASA and Stanford University are looking at as the future of planetary exploration.

The hedgehogs would be deployed from a ship orbiting the planet, and then they would begin to explore the planet on their own. In this case the target is not a planet, but the moon Phobos, which circles Mars. These hedgehog-based designs would be a first for space exploration, equipped with large spikes that would allow the robot to keep its footing while moving in low gravity environments. The proposed robot could jump up to 10 meters to avoid obstacles in the terrain.

The real leap forward here is not only in shape, but also in the way that the robots will move around the planet, by making their own decisions. The system will be autonomous, and make decisions about where to scout without waiting for commands from a human. Marco Pavone, an assistant professor in Stanford's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the developer of this hedgehog, said the following in a release, "It's the next level of autonomy in space.”

For now the mission has not been approved and there is no set date for a launch.