M4: The NASA robot that could soon reach Mars

Inspenet, September 5, 2023.

Conquering Mars has been the desire of scientists and enthusiasts. That’s why organizations like NASA are working on the possibility of visiting the red planet, a feat that has so far been challenging. And although humanity has not managed to reach it, there are robotic probes that explore its surface.

Currently, the next candidate to achieve this is the Multi-Modal Mobility Morphobot (also known as M4) developed by CalTech. This all-terrain vehicle aims to explore the vast landscapes of Mars thanks to its unique abilities to adapt to the terrain and modify its design using artificial intelligence. This has led to NASA providing significant funding for its development.

M4 on Mars: How did the idea come about?

The project, started in 2020, led developers to explore the capabilities of an adaptive robot that could take full advantage of artificial intelligence. Mory Gharib, one of the researchers involved, mentioned that the design team was initially hesitant, but the progress in artificial intelligence and the opportunities of the project motivated them to move forward.

The M4 employs independent appendages and artificial intelligence to perform various mobility tasks. It can move on four wheels on smooth and slightly hilly terrain, use its wheels as legs, stay on two wheels, navigate obstacles, and fly like a quadcopter.

Due to this versatility, NASA decided to back the project and became the main investor during the second round of funding . Therefore, it is expected that in the next few years, the M4 will be one of the robots to explore Mars.



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