NASA is reportedly conducting tests on the possibility of using a wheel-less rover for exploration on Mars and Saturn's moon Titan.
Dubbed as the Super Ball Bot project , this tensegrity rover will have “intersecting grids of rods and cables” instead of wheels. Although initially tested for Mars exploration, this new model of rover could also be used to explore other parts of the solar system such as Titan, a moon on Saturn.
The need for a new model of rover came from the idea of sending an exploration device which has a much lighter payload. This new tensegrity rover is designed to do as much work as what Curiosity can do but with less mass.
According to Science Recorder, tensegrity is derived from the words "tension" and "integrity." This describes a function in which balance is achieved through continuous pushing and pulling forces. The concept of tensegrity was also applied on Curiosity’s wheels, which explains why it can travel for long distances without wear and tear.
The tensegrity rover was built by adjusting cables to enable them to act as landing gears. When carried by a rocket, the tensegrity rover can be detached from the rocket as high as 60 feet and the cables will enable the rover to bounce safely on the ground. Similarly, the rods and cables attached to it will have the structural integrity to withstand the impact of the landing. The design for the tensegrity also made it possible for the rover to collapse its rods and cables for a more compact structure.
NASA has high hopes for the tensegrity rover. Engineers of this space research facility are even considering creating a rocket full of tensegrity rovers, deploying them in many areas across the solar system. The rovers could all land and do the same mission or they can be deployed as teams with different goals.