From the time of cavemen and cavewomen, people have used wheels to transport goods from place to place. And robotic rovers on Mars have followed suit: Mars Curiosity, Spirit, and all the others have zipped from dune to dune on axles and wheels. It’s no longer a given, however, that future rovers will do the same.
NASA is testing a new model of rover that dispenses with wheels and replaces them with intersecting grids of rods and cables. An array of motors links to and controls the rods and cables, and enables this “tensegrity” rover to move by rolling its whole body around.