Plant-Inspired Robots for Space Exploration

Plants are dynamic and highly sensitive organisms, actively and competitively foraging for limited resources both above and below ground, and they are also organisms which accurately compute their circumstances, use sophisticated cost–benefit analyses, and take defined actions to mitigate and control diverse environmental stimuli and apply very energy-efficient strategies.
Their well-organized sensing system allows plants to efficiently explore the environment and to rapidly react to potentially dangerous circumstances. In order to exploit distributed environmental resources, plants develop a network of growing and branching roots, whose tips (apices) are highly sensorized and efficiently explore the soil volume, mining minerals and up-taking water.
Planetary and asteroids soil exploration represents a very important and challenging space application. This activity opens the possibility of acquiring fundamental information on detection of traces of early life forms, holing relatively in deepness, or on the history of the celestial bodies. Plant-inspired robots distributed on the planetary surface and able to explore soils could enable meaningful planetary science under harsh and unexpected environments and represent a very effective and appealing solution to a variety of different problems in planetary exploration.