Gecko-inspired robot grippers could grab hold of space junk | Science News

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Gecko-inspired robot grippers could grab hold of space junk

Engineers tested the adhesive on a giant air hockey table and in microgravity

2:08pm, June 28, 2017
gecko-gripper robot

IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A PLANE  Aaron Parness of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory does his “best Superman” to grab a floating cube with a new gecko gripper–inspired hand in a microgravity plane.

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Get a grip. A new robotic gripping tool based on gecko feet can grab hold of floating objects in microgravity. The grippers could one day help robots move dangerous space junk to safer orbits or climb around the outside of space stations.

Most strategies for sticking don’t work in space. Chemical adhesives can’t withstand the wide range of temperatures, and suction doesn’t work in a vacuum.

Adhesives inspired by gecko feet — which use van der Waals forces to cling without feeling sticky (SN Online: 11/18/14) — could fit the bill, says Mark Cutkosky of Stanford University, whose team has been designing such stickers for more than a decade. Now his team has built robotic gripper “hands” that can grapple

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