Published: Sept. 8, 2023

An artist's render shows a soft robot using its flexible flower-shaped limbs to touch down on an asteroid.Jay McMahon's work on soft robots for space exploration and mining is being highlighted by IEEE Spectrum.

McMahon, an associate professor in the Ann and H.J. Smead Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, is developing Area-of-Effect Softbots (AoES) for asteroid proximity operations that can use electro-adhesion, solar radiation, or van der Waals forces to maneuver in extremely low gravity environments.

“There are electrostatic forces that will act and are not insignificant in the asteroid environment,” says McMahon. “It’s just a weird place, where gravity is so weak that those forces that exist on Earth, which we basically ignore because they’re so insignificant—you can take advantage of them in interesting ways.”

Read the full piece at IEEE Spectrum...