SpaceBok, the Martian Explorer

WIRED explains what it takes to get a robot to walk on Mars.

In these new experiments, the team programmed SpaceBok with more traditional, less springy gaits. Specifically, the researchers wanted to compare two kinds: a “static” gait, in which at least three limbs are making contact with the ground at any given time, and a “dynamic” one, in which more than one limb can leave the ground at once. The former is more methodical, but the latter is more efficient because it allows the robot to move faster.

The researchers also outfitted versions of SpaceBok with two kinds of feet: point and planar. The point feet have a small surface area, kind of like the hoof of an actual springbok. The planar feet, by contrast, are actually flat swiveling circles, which bend at an angle when the foot makes contact with the ground. Think of these more like snowshoes than hooves. Or really, they’re like snowshoes with cleats, since they’re studded with projections that help the foot grip the ground.

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