Stories

SaveSave story

Robot that mimics gecko could pick up space trash

Bullit Marquez / AP

Researchers at Stanford and NASA have developed a new robotic gripper that resembles gecko feet for use in space.

How it works: Geckos have small hairs on their feet that collectively work as an adhesive and allow them to climb smooth, vertical surfaces. The robotic gripper mimics those hairs using thousands of silicone rubber wedges pointing in opposite directions. When pulled together, they produce an adhesive force.

Why it matters: Hundreds of thousands of pieces of space junk orbit Earth, increasing the likelihood of space collisions and, in some cases, occupying prime positions for new satellites. If the gecko-inspired gripper can work in the cold environment of space (something the researchers plan to test), it could help robots collect debris and help clear the way.