This NASA Landing Robot Takes Inspiration From a Baby's Toy

'We’ve broken all the rules of traditional robotics designs.'


What has solid parts and squishes? NASA’s SUPERball robot.

A demonstration video shows the bot falling from a loading dock on to the hard pavement a few feet below. Such a fall would damage most heavy robots, but not the SUPERball.

The design for the robot actually comes from a baby toy. Which, if you think about it, is pretty brilliant. Landing spacecraft on moons, planets, and asteroids without damaging them is a very complicated technological challenge, and baby toys are by default designed to be indestructible.

Skwish Manhattan Toy

Monte Mother/YouTube

NASA’s Vytas SunSpiral explained the stroke of genius at a symposium earlier this year. “You can throw it on the ground really hard and you’re not going to break it,” he says. “We’re like, ‘Hey, that’s a landing robot!’”

“We’ve broken all the rules of traditional robotics designs,” says SunSpiral.

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