Some time ago, "they" developed a chemical 'caterpillar' that offers a path to electronics-free robots. That's more important than landing on the moon isn't it? Electronics-free robots.
A chemical gel that can walk like an inchworm has been demonstrated in a Japanese robotics lab and reported in New Scientist.
Scientists have made a colour-changing, motile gel by combining polymers that change in size depending on their chemical environment. This is based on an oscillating chemical reaction called the Belousov–Zhabotinsky reaction. The result is an autonomous material that moves without electronic stimulation.
In case you're wondering, an inchworm is the caterpillar of the geometer moth. It lacks the prolegs of other Lepidopteran caterpillars in the middle portion of the body, with only two or three pairs an the end. Equipped with appendages at both ends of the body, a caterpillar will clasp with its front legs and draw up the hind end, then clasp with the hind end (prolegs) and reach out for a new front attachment - creating the impression that it is measuring its journey.
Oh, and on the right is an image of spiral waves in the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction.
Phil Smith on Belousov–Zhabotinsky
1) Use the Idioticon index.
2) Use the search box: