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Swiss university develops hopping robot to explore asteroids




Students at ETH Zurich University in Switzerland have developed a three-legged robot that could ultimately make its way across the surface of asteroids through a series of long-distance hops, the university announced on its website Thursday.

The robot, known as the SpaceHopper, will be used on space missions to explore relatively small celestial bodies such as asteroids and moons which may contain valuable mineral resources that humanity could use in the future, it said.

According to the university, the exploration of these celestial bodies should also provide insights into the formation of the universe.

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It said the programme was launched two and a half years ago as a research project for bachelor’s degree students.

It is now being continued as a regular research project by five master's students and one doctoral student.

A particular challenge in the development of such exploration robots is that in contrast to larger celestial bodies such as the Earth, there is very little gravity on small celestial bodies, said the university.

The researchers therefore tested the functionality of their robot in zero gravity on a parabolic flight of the European Space Agency (ESA).