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” . 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 surroundings and also the gauging of the exact position of the tool attached to the wheel. These allow the vehicle to move safely, either autonomously or driven by an operator and also enable it to carry out tasks with great accuracy.
To ensure maximum safety, previous missions to the moon have landed robots on relatively flat spots  and limited their exploration area to safe nominal terrains. In addition, the use of separate landing and post-landing vehicles resulted in duplicate subsystems such as primary structure, thermal control, cable harness, power, imaging sensors , etc. All the above problems were solved by the whee...
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 Julie Townsend, Jeffrey Biesiadecki, Curtis Collins, “ATHLETE Mobility Performance with Active Terrain Compliance”, Aerospace Conference, 2010 IEEE, Page(s): 1 – 7 (http://ieeexplore.ieee.org, 4/3/2012).
 Wilcox, Brian H, “ATHLETE: A Cargo-Handling Vehicle for Solar System Exploration”, Aerospace Conference, 2011 IEEE, Page(s): 1 – 8, http://ieeexplore.ieee.org, (4/3/2012).
 http://www.theblaze.com/stories/see-nasas-two-ton-robot-that-can-leap-over-asteroids/ (4/3/2012).
 Matt Heverly, Jaret Matthews, Matt Frost, Chris McQuin, “Development of the Tri-ATHLETE Lunar Vehicle Prototype”, Proceedings of the 40th Aerospace Mechanisms Symposium, NASA Kennedy Space Center, May 7-9, 2010 (http://www-robotics.jpl.nasa.gov 3/3/2012).
 http://athlete.jpl.nasa.gov/ (4/3/2012).
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDvoe091tk4 (2/3/2012).
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