Meet the 12-TET Rover. What The New York Times once described as a “shape-changing jungle gym” is, in fact, one of NASA's future extraterrestrial explorers, designed to carry out its mission without much guidance from earth-bound ground controllers.
This autonomy is enabled, in part, by its skeletal frame — 26 extendable metal rods forming 12 tetrahedrons, hence the name — which allows the rover to “reconfigure itself into almost any shape” and adapt to terrains and situations that scientists have not foreseen. So “across flat terrain, it would roll like tumbleweed. It could pull itself, almost catlike, onto rocks or flatten itself and slither through holes.”
You can see it in action in an animation that's available for download at NASA's Autnonomous NanoTechnology Swarm website. The movie file, by the way, is 633.7 MB. Consider yourself warned.
Apparently, there's a prototype roaming a hallway somewhere. You can see it in action here [17.8 MB] and here [5.1 MB].
When not tumbling through the digitized surface of other worlds, these rovers have been drafted by the military for urban reconnaissance or hunting down certain cave dwellers.
Meet the TET Warfighter and its camouflaged pneumatic body.
In many ways, these images remind us of a thesis project by Elena Wiersma, published a few years ago in 306090 07: Landscape Within Architecture.
The thesis is a critical response to Bruce Peninsula National Park's plan to build a new visitor center on a very tame site far from the wild shores of Georgian Bay. The images and text that follow portray an architectural fantasy that proposes, instead, to inhabit the interior landscape of the Bruce Peninsula.
So rather than experiencing the landscape from afar, you are inserted into the interior wilderness of carved bedrock, ancient limestone towers, dark fissures and underground rivers. Instead of outhouses, you will be inhabiting a labyrinth of abysses.
In the proposed scheme, an access and guidance system enables people to climb down into fissures and caverns, mimicking cedar tree roots on the site. Flrexible stainless steel attachments and fittings are inserted into fissures in the rock and hold a network of cedar roots imported to the site from harvested forests. The stainless steel structure mimics fossils, or coral bones, and the roots age and become part of the landscape.
In contrast to the park's philosophy of interpreting the wilderness through a building set apart from the wild, the schematic and imagined access proposal of the thesis do not control or tame the wilderness. The wild space of the interior of the rock of the Bruce Peninsula crosses the boundary of personal safety and loss of identity, and revels in the unconscious. It is through our own inner wild that we respond to the natural and relate to the remaining wilderness.
Here are some images:
In a Metropolis micro-interview of Martha Schwartz, we learn that her dream job is to design “a national park in eastern Nevada, where we join together abandoned gold mines—that have just been left there to rot—and redesign them.”
How marvelous would it be, as part of the master plan to link them all together, to deploy NASA's TET rovers into these mines. In addition to using these skeletal tetrahedral frames as geological armatures, to hold back the earth and facilitate access, they will also bore through the bedrock, drilling new passages and eroding caverns to dwarf the nave of St. Peter's, wherein they will lock into place as columns, arches and internal buttresses.
A few centuries from now, landscape architects will go spelunking through this subterranean park. They are actually postulants to a secret society of Freemasons that had splintered off from the American Society of Landscape Architecture. As part of their Masonic initiation rites, these future stewards of the earth must first immerse themselves in the abyss; it's baptism by artificial voids. To become better caretakers of the environment, they must encounter the fullness, the exquisite grandeur, the terrifying unconscious indifference of the landscape.
As they descend deeper and deeper, as their bodies and identities begin to dissolve into the rocks, they must ask of themselves: “How deeply am I willing to go into the wilderness?”
Animaris geneticus, or: Intergalactic planetary landscape architect