Harvard SEAS Robot Space Habitat
Harvard’s SEAS roboticists from Harvard, are developing robots that could one day help humans maintain space habitats, called SmartHabs. More specifically, the team has been working for the past four years as part of a NASA-funded research institute to develop resilient and autonomous deep space extraterrestrial habitations.



So far, they have come up with a robotic gripper with three modes. The fingers are short and don’t bend in the first mode, enabling them to strongly and securely grasp objects. In the second mode, the fingers get an extra joint to help the gripper perform in-hand manipulation, letting it move and rotate objects without letting go of them. The final mode adds two more joints, which enables the fingers to passively adapt to the shape of an object and distribute contact pressure, perfect for grasping irregularly shaped or delicate objects.

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What happens if a meteorite breaches the habitat between missions, and the crew isn’t there to fix it. Or if it happens during a crewed time, the astronauts may have their hands full with other emergencies. Likewise in more routine situations; there are a lot of regular maintenance tasks that take up valuable astronaut time, from replacing filters to cleaning things,” said Justin Werfel, Senior Research Fellow in Robotics at SEAS.

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