Testing Out JPL’s New Snake Robot
A team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is creating and testing a snake-like robot called EELS (Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor). Inspired by a desire to descend vents on Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus and enter the subsurface ocean, this versatile robot is being developed to autonomously map, traverse, and explore previously inaccessible destinations on Earth, the Moon, and other worlds in our solar system.
The robot has been put to the test in sandy, snowy, and icy environments, including the Mars-like terrain at JPL’s Mars Yard, a “robot playground” created at a ski resort in the snowy mountains of Southern California, and even an indoor ice rink.
Because of the long communications lag time between Earth and deep space, EELS is designed to autonomously sense its environment, calculate risk, travel, and gather data with yet-to-be-determined science instruments. When something goes wrong, the goal is for the robot to recover on its own, without human assistance.
The project team began building the first prototype in 2019, and has been making continual revisions. They’ve been trying out white, 3D-printed plastic screws for testing on looser terrain like sand and soft snow, as well as sharper, black metal screws for ice. In its current form, the EELS 1.0 robot weighs about 220 pounds (100 kilograms) and is 13 feet (4 meters) long.
EELS is funded by the Office of Technology Infusion and Strategy at JPL in Southern California through a technology accelerator program called JPL Next. JPL is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California. The EELS team has worked with a number of university partners on the project, including Arizona State University, Carnegie Mellon University, and University of California, San Diego. The robot is not currently part of any NASA mission.
For more information on the project go to: https://www-robotics.jpl.nasa.gov/how-we-do-it/systems/exobiology-extant-life-surveyor-eels/ and https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/jpls-snake-like-eels-slithers-into-new-robotics-terrain.
TESTING OUT JPL’S NEW SNAKE ROBOT
A TEAM AT NASA’S JET PROPULSION LABORATORY IS CREATING A ROBOT THAT SLITHERS AND CAN REACH NEW VANTAGE POINTS.
IT’S CALLED EELS (EXOBIOLOGY EXTANT LIFE SURVEYOR).
PROTOTYPES ARE BEING TESTED IN CHALLENGING TERRAIN SO IT CAN ONE DAY EXPLORE IN PLACES NO ONE HAS EVER BEEN.
THE ROBOT IS BEING TESTED IN THE MARS YARD AT JPL
AT AN ICE RINK STANDING IN FOR A GLACIER
AND IN SNOWY SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MOUNTAINS, LIKE AN ICY MOON’S SURFACE.
THE SENSORS ON ITS HEAD MAPPED BELOW THE FROZEN SURFACE IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES.
EELS WILL EVENTUALLY MOVE AUTONOMOUSLY.
IT COULD ONE DAY EXPLORE GLACIERS ON EARTH, STEEP CRATERS AND LAVA TUBES ON THE MOON,
AND EVEN ICY MOONS – LIKE SATURN’S ENCELADUS – IN OUR SOLAR SYSTEM.