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Robotic Mobility, Manipulation and Sampling


Lead Center: JPL

Participating Center(s): AFRC, ARC, GSFC, JSC

Related Subtopic Pointer(s): S1.11, S4.04, S4.05, S4.06

Technologies for robotic mobility, manipulation, and sampling are needed to enable access to sites of interest and acquisition and handling of samples for in-situ analysis or return to Earth from planets and small bodies including Mars, Venus, comets, asteroids, and planetary moons. Application to Ocean Worlds is of increasing importance.


  1. technologies are needed to enable access to steep and rough terrain for planetary bodies where gravity dominates, such as the Moon and Mars. Wheeled, legged, and aerial solutions are of interest. Wheel concepts with good tractive performance in loose sand while being robust to harsh rocky terrain are of interest. Technologies to enable mobility on small bodies and access to liquid bodies below the surface such as in conduits and deep oceans are desired, as well as associated sampling technologies. Manipulation technologies are needed to deploy sampling tools to the surface and transfer samples to in-situ instruments and sample storage containers, as well as hermetic sealing of sample chambers. Sample acquisition tools are needed to acquire samples on planetary and small bodies through soft and hard materials, including ice. Minimization of mass and ability to work reliably in the harsh mission environment are important characteristics for the tools. Design for planetary protection and contamination control is important for sample acquisition and handling systems.


Component technologies for low-mass and low-power systems tolerant to the in-situ environment are of particular interest. Technical feasibility should be demonstrated during Phase I and a full capability unit of at least TRL 4 should be delivered in Phase II. Proposals should show an understanding of relevant science needs and engineering constraints and present a feasible plan to fully develop a technology and infuse it into a NASA program. Specific areas of interest include the following:


  • Surface and subsurface mobility and sampling systems for planets, small bodies, and moons.
  • Small body anchoring systems.
  • Low mass/power vision systems and processing capabilities that enable fast surface traverse.
  • Electro-mechanical connectors enabling tool change-out in dirty environments.
  • Tethers and tether play-out and retrieval systems.
  • Miniaturized flight motor controllers.

Sample handling technologies that minimize cross contamination and preserve mechanical integrity of samples.

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