Soon snake robots will be seen on a Mars mission as the European space agency (ESA) is mulling to send a detachable snake-like robot to the red planet, which could partner up with future rovers, allowing the scientists of greater access to nooks and crannies there.
According to the ESA researchers, snake-like robots may do a better job exploring Mars than the wheeled rovers humans have previously sent to the red planet.
Researchers at The Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research (SINTEF) are looking into whether snake robots could be a successful endevour. ESA wants its operations on other planets to have greater mobility and manoeuvrability.
It is noteworthy, NASA has landed four rovers on Mars that are solar-powered with six wheels and robotic arms that can take soil samples and operate cameras. Sojourner landed in 1997, Spirit and Opportunity in 2003, while the more advanced Curiosity was landed last year.
“Manoeuvrability is a challenge. The Spirit rover was lost after it became stuck in the sand on Mars. The vehicles just cannot get to many of the places from which samples have to be taken,” said Pal Liljeback and Aksel Transeth.
The researchers hope that by combining a rover that can navigate over large distances with a snake robot that can crawl along the ground and can get into inaccessible places, so many more possibilities could be opened up.
At the moment, soil samples from Mars are analyzed on board the rover itself, and the results are communicated back to Earth. However, ESA also wants to examine options that could allow samples to be returned to Earth. Snake robots could assist with collecting such samples, since they enable access to tight spots that the rovers cannot reach.