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The robot, ‘shapeshifter’ robots will be able to explore Saturn’s moon Titan

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A new shapeshifting robots from NASA that would be able to provide us with new means of access to the far-flung parts of the milky way galaxy, including that of Saturn’s moon, Titan.

The Shapeshifter concept is being developed at the space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and NASA describes it as “a thing that looks like a drone wrapped up in a long hamster wheel as it rolls across the yard, then split it in half.”

The Shapeshifter concept, it is something that, ultimately, will allow for the exploration of Saturn’s moon, Titan, which is the only other world in the solar system known to have liquid in the form of methane in lakes, rivers, and seas on the planet, according to JPL, principal investigator of Ali Agha.

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An artistic depiction of a fleet of Shapeshifter robots to explore Saturn’s moon, Titan.
(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marilynn Flynn)

“We have a very limited amount of information on the composition of the surface. The rocky terrain of the methane lakes, cryovolcanoes, we have the potential, but we don’t know for sure,” Agha said in a statement. “We have to think about how to create a system that is versatile and capable of traversing different types of terrain, but it is also small and compact enough to launch a rocket.”

NASA sees the Shapeshifter as being composed of various autonomous robots, known as cobots,” which would have to be able to self-assemble into larger structures. To do so would be to be able to move, either together or separately, depending on the needs of the mission.

Ex to see is a “mothercraft” type of lander that would touch down on Titan, and serve as a source of energy for the cobots, while also carrying scientific instruments. The operation is easy, Titan, has a dense atmosphere and low gravity.

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A prototype of the transformation of the robot, Shapeshifter has been tested on the robotic yard at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
(NASA/JPL-Caltech)

“It’s often the case that some of the most difficult places to get to in the most scientifically interesting, perhaps, are the latest in an area that is not well defined, are of course,” Jason Hofgartner, JPL lead scientist for the Shapeshifter, he said in the same statement. “Shapeshifter is the excellent versatility allows to access to all of this is scientifically compelling places.”

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