NASA develops robots could climb walls of International Space Station (ISS) in future

That makes it flawless for use on the Space Station, where every gram counts. This test was conducted in a zero-gravity environment by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which seems to have successfully employed its “gecko grippers”.

According to, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory facility in Pasadena, California are working on a “gecko gripper” system that would work similar to the way the millions of tiny hairlike structures on the bottom of the lizards’ feet help them become excellent climbers thanks to a phenomenon known as van der Waals forces. Like the feet of spiders, the gecko gripper actually consists of thousands of microscopic hairs. The system uses the uneven spacing of electrons orbiting a nuclei of atoms to form positive and negative sides of the same molecule.

Gecko feet aren’t sticky in the same way that tape is.

To develop the next generation of exploratory space robots, the US space agency has turned to geckos for “ultimate stickiness”.

“This is how the gecko does it”, Parness says, and you can watch a mini demonstration by the team here. These hairs bend everytime a force is applied and that’s how the designed material sticks to a desired surface, supporting more than 150 Newtons of force.

The gecko gripper technology, which is being developed simultaneously at various cutting-edge institutions around the world, including the defense agency’s DARPA and Stanford University, appears at first glance to be a work of magic. More than 30,000 stick-and-unstick repetitions have shown no loss of effectiveness, and the hope is the new material could soon be used on the global Space Station.

In addition, the technology has been used to create three different sizes of “astronaut anchors”, hand-operated adhesive units that would make it easier for crewmembers to attach clipboards, photos, or other items to the interior walls of the station. Despite the extreme conditions, the adhesive stayed strong. Parness and colleagues are collaborating with NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX on this concept.

For testing, the robot maneuvers across mock-up solar and radiator panels to emulate that environment. It will use the gecko-inspired technology to climb on the outside of spacecraft, performing inspections with more efficiency, even grab satellites to fix them and service them.

The gecko grippers could one day be used to mount objects on the inside of the global Space Station.

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