Future Robots May Use Gecko Grippers to Cling to Outside of the ISS

Posted on August 18, 2015

NASA is exploring the possibility of using a gecko-inspired gripping system to help robots hang on to the outside of installations on the International Space Station (ISS). Robots could crawl around the outside of the ISS without falling off. A LEMUR (Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robot) is using the grippers in the artist's concept above.

Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) engineer Aaron Parness and colleagues are working on developing a material with synthetic hairs thinner than human hairs. When a force is applied to make these thin tiny hairs bend it makes the material stick to the desired surface. A phenomenon called van der Waals forces is behind the Gecko Gripper concept.

Parness says in a statement, "The grippers don't leave any residue and don't require a mating surface on the wall the way Velcro would."

The researchers have been testing the LEMUR 3 climbing robot which has gecko gripper feet. The robot is being tested in simulated microgravity environments. Take a look:

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