Mining alien planets for resources and rocket fuel. It’s a part of Elon Musk’s ambitious proposal to colonize Mars, and a staple of pretty much any long-term space exploration plan. Now NASA is building the 1.0 version of the robot that will be doing the dirty work.
The space agency has revealed its Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot (RASSOR) robot, which is designed to dig into alien planets. NASA calls it a “blue-collar robot,” and it’s certainly capable of pulling up its (metaphorical) sleeves and getting to work. Unlike the Curiosity rover, which is delicate and packed with million-dollar instruments, the RASSOR is basically the beat-up Crown Victoria of rovers. It can take a beating and keep on trucking and, once complete, will be able to move five times faster than Curiosity.
“This is not your typical NASA rover with lots of very sophisticated instruments on it that are quite fragile,” Rob Mueller, a senior technologist at KSC’s Surface Systems, said in an interview in regards to an earlier model. “It can dig, it can climb, it can flip over. If it does flip over, it can right itself up again.”
NASA wants the final version of the RASSOR to be able to work 16-hour shifts for years, hauling back around 40 pounds of dirt with each mission. If you’re mining for materials on Mars (or anywhere else), that little ‘bot could take care of a whole lot of “blue-collar” work along the way.
Check out some test footage of the RASSOR in action below and let us know what you think: