The Robot Designed to Master Mars

Sandbot can scoot along any surface—including other planets.

By Calla Cofield
Jun 4, 2008 5:00 AMDec 19, 2019 9:05 PM
Mars Surface - NASA
(Credit: NASA)


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

The Mars rover Opportunity idled in a Martian sand dune for 39 long days, trapped with its wheels mostly covered. Only after very gradually working its way out of the sand could the rover move on. Given the long life of Opportunity, the temporary sand trap was not a grave concern, but other missions may not be as lucky. When we send more rovers to dusty terrain on Mars and the moon, sand could still cripple a mission. Now advances in robots capable of navigating waves of sand may make concerns of alien dust storms or sand traps a thing of the past.

Built at the University of Pennsylvania and tested at the Georgia Institute of Technology under team leader Daniel Goldman, SandBot is a six-legged robot with curved, C-shaped limbs instead of wheels. SandBot’s limbs spin around like regular wheels but slow down briefly when they strike the ground, allowing it to scoot along loose sand at up to three centimeters per second. The technology behind SandBot will first be deployed on Earth in RespondBot, a search-and-rescue robot built to assist police and fire departments facing situations too risky for humans to enter.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.