Spirit the robot dog trains @ Mount Hood
Spirit the robot dog trains @ Mount Hood

If you’re hiking around Mount Hood’s ski slopes and come across a quadrupedal robot, don’t distress, its name is Spirit and its just training to explore places like the moon and Mars. Spirit is part of the LASSIE Project (which stands for Legged Autonomous Surface Science in Analogue Environments) and its been being tested on the snowy rocky terrain 6,000 feet up the iconic Oregon mountain.

Like a puppy, Spirit is learning with each step, gaining valuable real world knowledge before it departs for otherworldly destinations. KNKX Public Radio spoke with Diego Caporale, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Southern California, about the variable terrain training:

“It’s very softly trying to understand the amount of force it’s applying, and then it’ll kind of fall in. It shifts its weight to do a different toe and puts way more weight on that toe. Eventually what we’re hoping to do is actually be shifting the weight at the same time.”

There are plenty of hurdles for the team the LASSIE Project to overcome for space exploration like reduced gravity and the dark side of the moon but there off to a great start. This latest testing session on Mount Hood is last on the team’s $3 million grant from NASA. Next the team is headed White Sands National Park in New Mexico to test its mobility on the world’s largest gypsum dunefield.

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