Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/J.D. Gammell
Unlike other rovers, NASA’s DuAxel consists of two-wheeled rovers, each called Axel. How does it work? The rover stops, lowers its chassis and anchors it to the ground before separating into two halves. When the rear half locks firmly in place, the forward half undocks and rolls away on a single axle. A tether connects the two, but unspools as the lead axle approaches the hazard and rappels down the slope, using instruments stowed in its wheel hub to study inaccessible terrain on Mars and beyond. Read more for a video, additional pictures and information.
The idea of two single-axle rovers that can combine into one with a central payload came about when maximizing versatility was the ultimate goal. This innovative four-wheeled configuration lends itself to driving great distances across rugged landscapes, since the two-wheeled version offers more agility than larger rovers. It can climb crater walls, vents and other extreme terrain.
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DuAxel performed extremely well in the field, successfully demonstrating its ability to approach a challenging terrain, anchor, and then undock its tethered Axel rover. Axel then autonomously maneuvered down steep and rocky slopes, deploying its instruments without the necessity of a robotic arm,” said Issa Nesnas, a robotics technologist at JPL.