Lemur – Pet Robot Assisting In Space

JPL Robotics’ Lemur (Limbed Excursion Mechanical Utility Robots) were designed to address maintenance issues on spacecrafts and space stations. The robot, named after the monkey-like animals, is equipped with a stereo camera set, allowing omni-directional vision. Lemur provides a basis for space development and can reduce the need for human spacewalks.

The Lemur IIA evolved from the robot’s previous model, Lemur I, and has six 4-degree-of-freedom limbs. The robot’s limbs allow rapid changing of a variety of attachable tools, enabling the Lemur IIA to perform multiple tasks swiftly. Only three legs are necessary for the Lemur’s self-support, so that the remaining three limbs are free to handle tools and perform tasks. In zero gravity, the robot can even anchor one of its limbs and work upside down (similarly to the animal after which it is named).

The Lemur can move in any direction and has omni-directional vision thanks to a stereo camera set that travels along a circular track mounted on top of the robot. In addition, the robot is equipped with a camera that serves as a microscope. “It saves time, because we can turn the cameras in the direction we want to move and then go,” explains Brett Kennedy, Principal Investigator for the robotic project.

The new Lemur IIB was designed and built to enhance planetary-surface operations. This model of the robot can access all areas of a planetary body, and is not limited to exploring only level areas. This model has only four limbs and can be used to investigate several aspects of climbing-system design and the mechanical system.

NASA’s goal is to develop technologies that will enable the design of an advanced system capable of climbing slopes. “Among the most advanced of these technologies is a new class of Ultrasonic/Sonic Driller/Corer (USDC) end-effectors capable of creating “holds” in rock and soil as well as sampling substrates.” Explain JPL Robotics.

In the words of Brett Kennedy, “Lemur could be an astronaut’s pet monkey, it can perform tasks that are too small for astronauts to do easily. It’s built to get into the nooks and crannies of a structure.” A video demonstrating Lemur’s abilities can be found here.

TFOT has covered other robots developed to assist and perform various tasks, including OmniTread – a snake-like robot capable of climbing high vertical obstacles such as stairs, moving through rough terrain and crossing wide gaps, the Tri-Leg Waalbot– which can be used for inspection and surveillance in hazardous environments or hard to reach areas and for spacecraft inspection and repair, and another sophisticated machine capable of operating in space, named the Eurobot.

More information on the Lemur robots can be found on JPL Robotics’ website.