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RI Seminar


Aaron Parness Manager, Robotic Climbers & Grippers Group NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
September 20, 2019
3:30 pm
- 4:30 pm
Gates Hillman Center 6115
Robotic Grippers for Planetary Applications

Abstract: The previous generation of NASA missions to the outer solar system discovered salt water oceans on Europa and Enceladus, each with more liquid water than Earth – compelling targets to look for extraterrestrial life. Closer to home, JAXA and NASA have imaged sky-light entrances to lava tube caves on the Moon more than 100 m in diameter and ESA has characterized the incredibly varied and complex terrain of Comet 67P. While JPL has successfully landed and operated four rovers on the surface of Mars using a 6-wheeled rocker-bogie architecture, future missions will require new mobility architectures for these extreme environments. Unfortunately, the highest value science targets often lie in the terrain that is hardest to access. This talk will explore robotic grippers that enable missions to these extreme terrains through their ability to grip a wide variety of surfaces (shapes, sizes, and geotechnical properties). To prepare for use in space where repair or replacement is not possible, we field-test these grippers and robots in analog extreme terrain on Earth. Many of these systems are enabled by advances in autonomy. The talk will present a rapid overview of my work and a detailed case study of an underactuated rock gripper for deflecting asteroids.

Brief Bio: Dr. Aaron Parness was the Group Supervisor of the Robotic Grippers and Climbing Robots Group at JPL and the head of the Robotic Rapid Prototyping Laboratory. He received two bachelor’s degrees from MIT (Mechanical Engineering & Creative Writing), and his MS and PhD from Stanford University. He has led Moon Diver, a proposed Discovery-class mission that would send a rappelling robot into a lunar cave, and several R&D tasks featuring robotic grippers. His research over the last decade has emphasized iterative design, rapid and novel manufacturing methods, and field testing. He has led the development of grippers fielded on volcanic terrain in Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park, within ice caves on Mt. Rainier and Mt. St Helens, and at 2,000 m depth in the Pacific Ocean. He also developed a gecko-inspired adhesive and robotic grippers that flew to the International Space Station, were featured as a Popular Science Top 100 innovation of the year, and have been licensed to a startup company selling gecko grippers for pick and place applications in the manufacturing space.
Host: David Wettergreen
For Appointments: Stephanie Matvey (smatvey@andrew.cmu.edu)