05-20-16 / 7:25 AM / A BETTER REACH … ON MARS.

The Osgood File. Sponsored in part by Nuveen Investments. Make the most of your income portfolio and its potential with a market leader in closed-end funds. Nuveen – Reach for More. This is Charles Osgood on the CBS Radio Network.

In the past few years, the Mars Curiosity Rover has been giving us new insights about the Red Planet.

It’s been a somewhat slow process, given the Rover’s limits when it comes to collecting samples.

But researchers in California have designed a device they say could make the job easier – and, the inspiration comes from right here on Earth.

As you’ll hear after this…

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Michael Frank is a Ph.D candidate in engineering at the University of California-San Diego, where he and his colleagues wanted to improve on the Mars Curiosity Rover’s ability to collect samples…

SOT – Michael Frank
“It just started with the premise of: Could we make something that is bio-inspired that could do the sampling, be more robust than that regular rover and then collect the samples?” (:08)

They looked at the sea urchin, an animal with a unique mouthpiece…

SOT – Michael Frank
“It protrudes outwards and opens – and then it grasps something and then retracts inwards – and it’s all in one fluid motion.” (:07)

A sea urchin’s teeth have special grooves that help it chew up and tear through the toughest of rocks.

So, Frank and his colleagues made a claw-like device based on the sea urchin’s mouth structure…

SOT – Michael Frank
“In the case of the sea urchin, we kind of found this perfect animal model.” (:03)

And then, they connected their specialized claw to a small rover and took it out for a test run, to see if it could pick up samples in conditions similar to the surface of Mars…

SOT – Michael Frank
“We did all of that using wet sand and dry sand at the beach at La Jolla Shores.” (:04)

The device was able to scoop up sand relatively easily.

Frank and his colleagues say that their device could fit on future rovers rolling around on Mars, helping scientists to collect the samples that they need.

Reaching for the stars may have just gotten a little easier.

The Osgood File. I’ll see you on the television come Sunday Morning on CBS. This is Charles Osgood on the CBS Radio Network.