We already know how to explore planets with relatively low gravity, like Mars. The Curiosity Rover is engineered to hang onto the planet’s surface, despite it having just 38 percent of the gravity we enjoy on Earth. What happens if you want to check out a small moon or an asteroid with a fraction of that gravity? You design a robotic hedgehog, of course.
Stanford University researchers and NASA are working together on spiky space balls that could dance across the surfaces of moons and asteroids whose low gravity and rough surfaces would bog down a regular rover.
The robots have been nicknamed “hedgehogs” thanks to their roundness and collection of protruding spikes. Each rover is less than 2 feet in diameter and would be deployed from a mother spacecraft. The aim is to eventually land the mini-rovers on Phobos, a moon of Mars.