NASA Builds Muscles

Tiny tools for space hold promise for the disabled

Call it the first bionic handshake. Last week, when an apparatus resembling the business end of a blender unfurled like lily petals and grabbed an outstretched finger, humanity was officially embraced by one of the world's first artificial muscles.

It wasn't exactly a display of super strength. The "grip," generated by four polymer strips designed to bend in response to electrical charges, was barely noticeable. But that force is more than enough for the individual strips to wipe dust from the windshield of a palm-size rover that NASA and the Japanese space agency isas will use to explore an asteroid in...

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