A sticky problem sometimes needs a sticky solution.
Here on Earth, if you need something to stick, duct tape is the go-to solution. In space, getting things to stick is essential but tricky, and your everyday tapes and glue -- even duct tape -- don't really cut it in microgravity environments.
Velcro has been the adhesive of choice since the Apollo missions, but it requires two sides for things to stick. Plus, loose fibers cause debris, which isn't ideal in places like the delicate environment of the International Space Station.
But now, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is developing a new kind of adhesive for use in space, inspired by geckos.
"Geckos are nature's most amazing climbers," said Aaron Parness, robotics researcher at NASA JPL. "They go from the floor to the ceiling in 2 seconds and they can stick to almost anything."
A gecko's foot has millions of tiny hairs that create an attraction on the atomic level, allowing the foot to grip to anything. JPL's engineers have created a similar surface covered in tiny hairs, smaller than that on a human head, which can stick to all kinds of walls and surfaces.
NASA tested the Gecko Gripper aboard its zero-gravity aircraft, commonly known as the "vomit comet." There, the gripper was able to grapple and hold on to both 10 kilogram and 100 kilogram objects.
NASA will possibly use this nifty sticker for things like grabbing satellites to bring them in for repair or attaching them to robots that could crawl around and inspect the outside of the ISS.
To watch the Gecko Gripper in action, check out the video from NASA below:
(Image via nico99/ Shutterstock.com)