All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer
“The All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer (ATHLETE) vehicle concept is based on six wheels at the ends of six multi-degree-of-freedom limbs. ATHLETE uses its wheels for efficient driving over stable, gently rolling terrain. Because each limb has enough degrees of freedom for use as a general-purpose leg, the wheels can be locked and used as feet to walk out of excessively soft, obstacle rich, or other extreme terrain. ATHLETE is envisioned as a heavy-lift utility vehicle to support human exploration of the lunar or Martian surface, useful for unloading bulky cargo from stationary landers and transporting it long distances over varied terrain.
To demonstrate this concept, several prototype vehicles have been developed for testing at JPL. The 1st generation ATHLETE prototype, built in 2005, consists of 6, six-degree-of-freedom limbs mounted to the corners of a hexagonal ring 2.75m (9 ft) wide. These vehicles have a maximum standing height of just over 2m (6.5 ft), weigh approximately 850 kg (1875 lb) and can carry a maximum payload of 300 kg (660 lb) in Earth gravity. Two identical prototypes were constructed in 2005, and one of these is still operational in 2010. “