NASA’s Adorable Origami Bot Could Explore the Caves of Mars and Beyond

At some point, some humans somewhere will take off on a voyage for Mars. Sooner rather than later, a space agency (probably NASA) will investigate the icy worlds of Europa and Enceladus for life. To help with these investigations, NASA has developed the Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot, better known as PUFFER.

With a design inspired by origami, PUFFER is a concept that could provide “simple, low-cost access to new high-value extreme terrains.” NASA mentions the caves and lava tubes of Mars as possible travel locations, as well as the “icy ‘chaos terrains’ on the surface of Europa.”

For such a journey, packing light is best. As efficient as rovers like Discovery are, they’re simply too big to fit into some areas. A PUFFER would be the size of a smartphone, it’s been tested for falling from 3 meters under simulated Martian gravity, and has been able to climb inclines at slopes of up to 45 degrees.