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ASITV: Gecko robot, the cosmic refuse collector

A robot that uses an adhesive mechanism, similar to that used by geckos, to stick to space debris and trap them: this is how space refuse could be reduced. The proposal was made by a team of scientists from the University of Stanford and from NASA

Video transcript - The most ingenious of nature's tricks often depend on tiny structures, even thinner than a human hair. Take the gecko, for instance: this famous mimetic animal is capable of climbing every kind of surface, thanks to the little hairs on its feet that generate a unique type of electrical connection.

A team of scientists from the University of Stanford and from NASA took inspiration from the gecko’s climbing power, to build a robot capable of sticking to objects and capturing them. The goal? To send it into space to do some cleaning. In fact, the issue of space junk, meaning space debris in orbit around our planet, is becoming increasingly dangerous for satellites, space vehicles and astronauts on missions.

The gecko robot could help to solve this problem, thanks to sophisticated pincers equipped with a microscopic adhesive system, which can be adapted to different surfaces. The scientists built a prototype and successfully tested it in various laboratory experiments before sending it to the International Space Station, where it has been put to the tests in conditions of microgravity. The next challenge will therefore be a test carried out directly in space: at that point, the cosmic refuse collector will be able to hunt for space debris.