NASA is developing the Super Ball Bot that will be able to absorb the impact of a hard planetary landing by squishing and bouncing until it comes to a stop.
Signaling a departure from the traditional rigid structure for rovers, the new robots will use use the principles of tensegrity which will give them a more fluid and elastic structure. Robots using this kind of structure will be made up of hollow rods and elastic cables, having no rigid connections and consisting of counter-intuitive tension structures.
The robot will absorb the impact of the landing by squishing, returning to its original shape and rolling across its surface like an oddly-shaped ball.
Because of this increased flexibility, the structures are hard to control and Vytas SunSpiral and Adrian Agogino of NASA's Ames Research Center are researching algorithms and oscillatory controls to keep it stable.
They plan to have a payload inside the structure that will be dropped safely with little or no damage.They have already dropped an egg from ten meters (about 30 feet) using such a structure and have suggested a rover could land on Saturn's moon, Titan, with no protection.