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When it comes to exploring hostile environments, space robots are our most effective tool in space exploration. These robots can come in various forms depending on the needs of the mission they are built for. However, all such machines share common purposes. First they collect data. This can be pictures, soil samples, or readings on radiation and other factors. They other is they are launched as part of group of instruments packed with a space probe. In every instance space robots are not just sent to their destination alone. They also have backup in the artificial satellite they are sent with.
The best example of space robots are the Mars Rovers. These rovers are six wheeled robots sent to Mars over 5 missions to explore the surface of Mars. Three of the rovers landed successfully doing work on the soil as well as taking pictures of the terrain and looking for liquid water on the planet. The most recent Mars rovers are considered the most successful of the rover missions both operating for 6 years and counting. This is the longest an automated machine has operated on another planet.
However space robots are not just limited to rovers. Wherever there is a need for better use of tools or collection of data in space you may just find a kind of robot being used. A good example is the Robonaut, a humanoid robot developed by NASA to help astronauts on the international space station with their work. As tasks become more demanding such solutions may become more attractive. Scientists are also considering using robots to explore deep space and distant celestial objects. In this role they would act like the Mars rovers being an eventual vanguard for human space exploration.
We have written many articles about space robots for Universe Today. Here’s an article about robots in space, and here’s an article about the Canadarm.
We’ve also recorded an entire episode of Astronomy Cast all about Robots in Space. Listen here, Episode 119: Robots in Space.