The University of Pennsylvania has been awarded a $2 million grant from NASA to conduct groundbreaking research on lunar robotics. The TRUSSES Project: Temporarily, Robots Unite to Surmount Sandy Entrapments, then Separate, led by Cynthia Sung, Gabel Family Term Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics (MEAM) at Penn Engineering, aims to develop innovative methods for teams of robots to overcome environmental hazards on the Moon.
Under the TRUSSES Project, the robots will collaborate and attach to one another, forming larger and more stable structures to navigate treacherous terrains. Utilizing their interactions with the ground, the robots will create a comprehensive map of safe and risky areas, enabling them to plan safe paths and avoid potential navigation failures.
“Future lunar exploration demands the ability to navigate challenging terrains, including steep slopes, loose regolith and potentially ice,” says Sung. “Our research will focus on developing new algorithms that allow robots to estimate ground properties through locomotion, enabling them to autonomously assess traversal risk and recover from any navigation failures.”
The TRUSSES Project will be carried out by a team of researchers from Penn Engineering, based out of the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Lab, as well as the University of Southern California (USC). This collaboration will leverage the expertise of various fields to tackle the complex challenges of lunar exploration.
“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to lead this groundbreaking research funded by NASA,” says Sung. “It is exciting to work with such an interdisciplinary team on some very challenging problems at the intersection of robotics and geophysics.”