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1. INTRODUCTION:
The NASA A.T.H.L.E.T.E (All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer) is a vehicle developed by the NASA Johnson Space Centre, NASA Ames Research Centre, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Boeing Company and Stanford University. It is part of the Lunar and Planetary Surface Operations element of the NASA Technology Maturation Program and constitutes the “effort for a sustainable, affordable and safe human lunar return” [1]. Two approximately half-scale prototype “Software Development Model” vehicles have been built (figure 1) and tested between 2005 and 2009. The vehicles’ mass is about 850 kg and their hexagonal frames are 2.75 m across. The frame itself has 6 6-degree-of-freedom (DOF) limbs standing a maximum of 2.08 m at the hip pitch axis. At the end of each limb is a 0.48 m diameter wheel equipped with an adapter where a variety of general-purpose devices can be connected (drills, grippers, etc.). Furthermore, a pair of stereo cameras have been attached on every side of the frame and on each wheel, allowing for a stereoscopic panoramic view of the vehicle’s su…
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