NASA Is Building The Classic 'Claw' Arcade Game Into New Equipment Destined For Mars Aboard The InSight Lander

Friday, 19 October 2018 - 1:08PM
Space
Technology
Mars
Friday, 19 October 2018 - 1:08PM
NASA Is Building The Classic 'Claw' Arcade Game Into New Equipment Destined For Mars Aboard The InSight Lander
< >
NASA JPL/Caltech
They're not exactly grabbing for three-eyed alien toys at Pizza Planet, but engineers at NASA are using the same arcade game from Toy Story on an instrument headed to Mars aboard the InSight lander. The claw mechanism will play an important role in InSight's mission, and NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) recently explained that role and how the robotic arm works in a new video.

"The mechanisms themselves, although they look similar, are very different," JPL mechatronics engineer Nicolas Haddad tells mechanical engineer Mike Meacham in the interview. The mechanism is attached to the Instrument Deployment Arm, which was a leftover part from the Mars Surveyor 2001 project that never launched (though it has since been refurbished and modified).

"With the arcade game, when you grab that stuffed animal and you pull on that stuffed animal, you actually open the claw fingers and that stuffed animal falls out. With the Insight grapple, that mechanism is designed to latch. So once those fingers are closed, it's impossible to pull on those fingers to open it."

Before being used to pick up objects, NASA will use the claw to unload instruments to the Martian surface. Haddad explains that the mechanism uses a wax actuator to open the fingers. When the grapple is no longer needed, there is another hook on the robotic arm where it can be stowed away while the arm performs other functions.



"We have a lot riding on InSight's robotic arm, so we've been practicing our version of the claw game dozens of times," InSight's project manager Tom Hoffman said in a statement. "The difference, of course, is that, unlike the claw machine designers, our robotic arm team works hard to allow us to win every time."

Insight is currently 6 million miles away from Mars and is expected to land on the planet on November 26. Science operations will begin immediately, but data collection will not start until 10 weeks later. You can subscribe to our newsletter to receive of-the-moment updates.
Science
NASA
Space
Technology
Mars
No