ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer) is a large six-legged robotic lunar rover under...
ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer) is a large six-legged robotic lunar rover under development by NASA.
The first prototype is greater than 4 meters in diameter with more than 6 m reach, and is designed to be able to both roll and walk for maximum efficiency over a wide range of terrains. The ultimate goal of the project is to develop a multi-purpose system capable of docking or mating with special-purpose devices, including a launchable/releasable grappling hook, refueling stations, excavation implements, and/or special end effectors. The legs have 6 degrees of freedom for generalized robotic manipulation. Each ATHLETE is intended to have a payload capacity of 450 kg, with the capability of docking multiple ATHLETE vehicles together to support larger loads.
The project's goals are:
* Able to move at 10 km/h over terrain similar to that found at the Apollo landing sites
* Climb vertical steps of at least 70% of the maximum stowed dimension of the vehicle
* Climb slopes of 35° on rock and 25° on soft sand
* Be stowed and docked compactly for launch into an annular ring so that many vehicles can be efficiently stacked around a main payload on a single lander
* Self-deploy from compact storage on lunar landers
* Traverse almost any terrain, including vertical rock faces or sandy slopes at the angle of repose by using a launchable/releasable grappling hook
ATHLETE's purpose is to support lunar exploration operations. One hypothetical mission scenario features a mobile manned "base" supported by ATHLETEs, capable of traversing thousands of kilometers and setting down temporarily to study interesting features along the way.