NASA testing origami-inspired robot scout for Mars missions

U.S. space agency NASA has confirmed that it is testing an origami-inspired scout robot called Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot (PUFFER), which will be used to explore the surface of Mars.

Developed by NASA’s Pasadena, California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), PUFFER has a lightweight structure, with the ability to tuck its wheels, flatten itself, as well as explore hard-to-reach places.

PUFFER project manager Jaakko Karras said it has already been tested under diverse rugged conditions, including California’s Mojave Desert and the frozen plains of Antarctica. Those tests ensured its functionality in all sorts of terrain.

Explaining PUFFER-like machines’ abilities, Karras said, “They can do parallel science with a rover, so you can increase the amount you're doing in a day. We can see these being used in hard-to-reach locations - squeezing under ledges, for example.”

The origami-inspired scout robot is capable of climbing up to 45 degree slopes as well as surviving falls into deep craters and pits.

As the missions to explore Mars have gained traction in the last few years, space agencies like NASA are trying to develop more-efficient rovers and robots that can provide scientists with more information about the Red Planet.