Zurich - Swiss researchers have equipped robots originally developed in Zurich with measurement instruments for missions to the moon and taught them to work as a team. The project won the European Space Resources Challenge and is to be developed further.

Anybotics robot team targets the moon
A team is greater than the sum of its parts – the trio of legged robots during a test in a Swiss gravel quarry. (Photograph: ETH Zurich / Takahiro Miki)

A Swiss research group run by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH) is preparing robots for future missions to the moon. The group’s project involved equipping three ANYmal robots with measurement instruments that should help them to find minerals on the moon. ANYmal is a four-legged, walking robot that was developed at the ETH and has since been marketed by the ETH spin-off ANYbotics

The researchers have not just fitted the three walking robots with special equipment, they have also taught them to work in a team. According to a press release from the ETH, they equipped the three robots with various specific skills to do so. For example, one robot is capable of mapping the terrain, while another specializes in precise rock identification. The third robot is an all-rounder that can perform all tasks with less precision. According to the ETH, the ability to work as a team will make the robots robust in the face of a possible failure and increase efficiency. 

Robots for Lunar Exploration. Source: ETH Zurich

The ETH has now announced that the project was among the winners of the Space Resources Challenge competition of the European Space Resources Innovation Centre (ESRIC) and the European Space Agency (ESA). The award is a research agreement for a year to further develop the technology. 

The Universities of Basel, Bern and Zurich also took part in the project alongside the ETH. ce/ssp

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