This robot squid could go to space

This robot squid could go to space
This robot squid depicts 2015 NIAC Phase I Fellow Mason Peck’s soft-robotic rover for planetary environments for missions that cannot be accomplished with conventional power systems. It resembles a squid, with tentacle-like structures that serve as electrodynamic ‘power scavengers’ to harvest power from locally changing magnetic fields. The goal is to enable amphibious exploration of gas-giant moons like Europa. Credits: NASA/Cornell University/NSF

NASA has invested $100,000 in space technology including prototype rovers that move around like squids.

Meet the Squid Robot Designed to Explore Europa

NASA wants to build a squid robot, develop deep space cryogenic storage, and use quasars to guide spacecraft. These and 12 other proposals will receive $100,000 each for development in Phase I of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts. As NASA describes it, the program “aims to turn science fiction into science fact.”

The squid robot, proposed by Mason Peck of Cornell, is a “soft-robotic rover” designed to go where conventionally powered robots can’t—like Europa, a moon of Jupiter thought to house a subsurface ocean. Peck says the robot could “assess whether any life… may be powered by electromagnetic energy.”

The robot uses its tentacles both to move and to harvest power from nearby magnetic fields. Some of that energy is used for water electrolysis, which creates a mix of H2 and O2 gas. When ignited, that mixture moves the squid—either in liquid or along the surface of a planetary body—by changing its shape. As the squid explores, it captures images of its surrounds, which it lights up with stretchy electroluminescent “skin.”