PUFFER is NASA’s adorable little robot that is originally designed to explore parts of space like Mars and Europa. The robot is unique as it is inspired by the ancient art of origami which means it can fold into a small, easy to transport package and provides a simple, low-cost access option to extreme terrains.
PUFFER stands for “Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robots” and is a small and exceptionally light weight design. The origami abilities mean the entire structure can fold into the size of a smartphone, while the flexible materials make it perfect for exploring extreme landscapes.
“When the parent spacecraft finds an exciting region for exploration, it simply ejects one or more PUFFERs”,
The team wrote in their 2016 fact sheet.
“A larger parent rover could use a collection of PUFFERs to explore extreme terrains that are easier to access with a small, low-cost “child” rover,” says the team.
PUFFER is the result of a collaboration involving NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, UC Berkeley, and Distant Focus Corporation in Champaign, Illinois. The project took 18 months to reach the current state. However, it still requires a lot more work before it can get actually be deployed.
The prototypes are being tested on pseudo-Martian terrain, with the impact tests revealing that the structure can survive falls from a height of over 3 meters under Martian gravity. The robot can also move on rocky inclines at slopes of up to 45 degrees, as shown in the video below!