NASA Climbing Robot Scales Cliffs and Looks for Life

NASA Climbing Robot Scales Cliffs and Looks for Life


[Magestic music] [vehicles drive by on gravel] [LEMUR-3 RAISING A ROBOT]>>[NARRATOR] Titus Canyon An area lying in the north of
Death Valley National Park. Hundreds of millions of years
ago this dark landscape lay beneath warm tropical seas. Today it is the site
for a field test conducted by NASA’s Jet
Propulsion Laboratory.>>[Male] Three, two, one. [electric motors]>>[NARRATOR] LEMUR-3 is a
climbing rover. A mechanised explorer designed
to work in extreme terrain. [muffled conversations] [electric motors]>>[NARRATOR] LEMUR‘s challenge
is to find evidence of the life that once inhabited this area’s
long lost warm waters and muddy terrain. A waypoint is set
high on the canyon. LEMUR will climb to this point analyzing the rock
face along the way. LEMUR uses LiDAR to
choose a path, bouncing lasers pulses off the
rock to determine its shape. It holds itself in place with
micro-spine grippers made up of hundreds
of tiny hooks that can fasten onto
any rough surface. The more LEMUR climbs, the
better choices it makes.>>[Male] Going to
release grippers. [wind] A variety of
instruments on board are used to
analyze the rock. An Infrared Spectrometer
on its belly detects the presence of
organic compounds. X-rays help identify
chemical elements. It can detect the
tiniest fluorescence of fossilized organisms
in the ultraviolet. For this mission a safety cable
anchors LEMUR to the rock. It helps emulate
the lower gravity LEMUR will be operating
in away from Earth. Away from Earth, it would roam
free and unencumbered.>>[Male] Body shifting in
three, two, one… [electric motors] [crunch]>>[Male] [Unintelligible] [electric motors]>>[NARRATOR] LEMUR reaches
its destination. The machine is retrieved. The data analyzed. The results are fascinating. Stromatolites, fossilised
balls of algae, dating back to the
Palaeozoic era, are among LEMUR’s discoveries. Traces of organisms that once
swam in warm seas. Organisms that have been dead
for 500 million years. LEMUR represents a
new generation of mechanised explorer that could one day roam
landscapes far beyond Earth. The data it accumulates
with each climb is passed to its descendants. If LEMUR can find
life in rock that is half a
billion years old, think how useful that
skill might be at its ultimate destination. Not a rocky canyon wall here on
Earth, but out there. Among the stars. [Magestic music] [EXPLORE SPACE TECH / NASA]