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A Highly Dexterous Modular Robot with Autonomous Dynamic Reconfigurations for Extra-Terrestrial Exploration University of Nebraska at Omaha/NASA Johnson Space Center, Human Exploration & Operations Mission Directorate

Figure 1. Hardware module of ModRED.

Autonomous Dynamic Reconfigurations for Extra-Terrestrial Exploration The objective of the ModRED (Modular Robot for Exploration and Discovery) project was to develop an autonomous robot that would improve existing techniques for automated exploring of initially unknown and unstructured environments such as extra-terrestrial surfaces on the Moon or Mars. ModRED was designed as a Modular Self-­ reconfigurable Robot that consists of individual units or modules which can connect with each other in several ways to form different configurations in terms of size, shape and/or function. This shape-­ related adaptability of ModRED makes it very dexterous and suitable for exploring extra terrestrial environments. For the research in the project, a highly dexterous module design capable of mobility along 4 degrees-of-­freedom (DOF) was developed. Each module was made from 3D-­printed, ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) plastic and included a processor and sensors to enable mobility-­related functions, along with a novel connector mechanism called RoGenSiD (Rotaryplate Genderless Single-­ sided Docking) to enable modules to dock on four different faces of each module (Fig. 1). Following the module’s design, control techniques and software algorithms were developed to ensure autonomous reconfiguration and mobility of ModRED modules over different terrains. Research results were successfully validated using theoretical analyses and simulation experiments, along with some tests on physical ModRED modules. http://cmantic.unomaha.edu/projects/modred/index.htm



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