Last year NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory revealed a Spiderman-inspired grippy claw that would let spacecraft easily grab onto passing asteroids and comets. Since then the technology has been further refined and now integrated into a rock-climbing robot called the LEMUR IIB that could put Sir Edmund Hillary to shame.
Each of the robot's four articulate arms is capped with a gripper that uses 750 tiny claws -- apparently all hand-crafted by JPL's summer interns -- to grab onto rough surfaces like rocks. The claws are actually strong enough to hold the robot to a surface even upside-down, but in zero gravity there'll be less forces trying to break its grip.
For the moment the LEMUR IIB is limited as to where it can explore -- as long as a mountain or an asteroid has a relatively smooth rock face the robot should be OK. And while it's eventually destined to explore celestial bodies as they're passing through our solar system, if NASA straps a live streaming camera to the back of this little bot and sends it up Mount Everest, I'm sure millions of wannabe mountaineers would eagerly tune in. [YouTube via IEEE Spectrum]