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NASA to Develop Gecko-Inspired Gripping Tools

Posted By ASC, Monday, January 05, 2015
Updated: Thursday, May 07, 2015
NASA is looking at biomimetic adhesives for gripping tools that could snag orbital debris and defunct satellites. Orbital debris can present a serious risk to space craft, including the International Space Station (ISS). The current project out of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California is working toward a solution. As proof of concept, adhesive grippers have been tested in brief periods of weightlessness aboard NASA's C-9B parabolic flight aircraft. Gecko adhesion is based on millions of tiny hairs and this means a gecko-based adhesive can cling to rough or irregular surfaces that might otherwise slip away from gripping devices. In addition, the adhesion with this biomimetic adhesive is directional. That means the stickiness of the gripper can be turned on and off by pulling in different directions, allowing future tools to both grab and release objects in space. Researchers hope this adhesive will have additional uses like assisting small satellites in docking with the ISS.

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