In-situ testing for space equipment is complex when it has to be developed on Earth, which is the case for literally all of it, at least for now. Typically, engineers and scientists developing the next Lunar or Martian robotic explorer would seek out exotic destinations that, while they look like they fit on another planet, were just more exotic parts of ours. The robotics team at DLR, Germany’s space agency, decided they could do better. So they built a 1500 sq meter test bed for their upcoming Martian and Lunar exploration bots.Continue reading “Future Moon and Mars Rovers Have a New Sandbox to Learn in”
Maglevs are one of those technologies that still look like magic, even years after they were initially rolled out. While they have long been a workhorse of the transportation systems of some major cities, they don’t often impact the day-to-day lives of people who don’t use them to commute. But, they might be invaluable in another setting – lunar exploration. There’s an ongoing debate about the best way to shuttle stuff around on the Moon’s surface, and a team from JPL and a company called SRI International think they have a solution – deploy a maglev track on the Moon.Continue reading “A Maglev System On The Moon Could Make Lunar Logistics A Breeze”
Robots will be one of the keys to the expanding in-space economy. As launch costs decrease, hopefully significantly when Starship and other massive lift systems come online, the most significant barrier to entry for the space economy will finally come down. So what happens then? Two acronyms have been popping up in the literature with increasing frequency – in-space servicing, assembly, and manufacturing (ISAM) and On-orbit servicing (OOS). Over a series of articles, we’ll look at some papers detailing what those acronyms mean and where they might be going shortly. First, we’ll examine how robots fit into the equation.Continue reading “Robots in orbit are becoming even more popular. There are still many technical challenges ahead.”
Germany’s DLR has been hosting a series of robotic teleoperation experiments where an astronaut abroad the ISS controls a robot back on the ground. We’ve previously reported on some of their successes. Now it’s time for the next round of experiments, with one individual astronaut on the ISS controlling four separate robots to perform a task back on Earth.Continue reading “An Astronaut Will Be Controlling Several Robots on Earth… from Space”
Rovers have enabled some amazing explorations of other worlds like the Moon and Mars. However, rovers are limited by the terrain they can reach. To explore inaccessible terrain, NASA is testing a versatile snake-like robot that could crawl up steep slopes, slither across ice, and even slide into lava tubes. Called Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor (or EELS), this robot could cross different terrains and create a 3D map of its surrounding to autonomously pick its course, avoiding hazards to reach its destination.Continue reading “NASA Tests a Robotic Snake That Could Explore Other Worlds”
Building with Legos is a favored pastime for many small children and adults. We’ve even covered some more space-oriented Lego sets here at UT. But, as the Lego movie points out, they constitute “a highly sophisticated interlocking brick system.” So why not take the idea underpinning Legos – that you can make anything you want out of a set of generic pieces and apply it to a much more serious scientific topic…like robots.Continue reading “Astronauts Could Mix and Match Parts to Make the Perfect Robot for Any Job”
Evolution is a problem-solver, and one of the problems it solved in many different ways is locomotion. Birds fly. Fish swim. Animals walk.
But earthworms found another way to move around the niche they occupy. Can we copy them to explore other worlds?Continue reading “An Earthworm Robot Could Help Us Explore Other Worlds”
On May 1st, 2009, after five years on the Martian surface, the Spirit rover got stuck in a patch of soft sand (where it would remain for the rest of its mission). On February 13th, 2019, NASA officials declared that Spirit’s sister – the Opportunity rover – had concluded its mission after a planetary dust storm forced it into hibernation mode about seven months prior. And in March 2017, the Curiosity rover’s wheels showed signs of their first break, thanks to years of traveling over rough terrain. Such are the risks of sending rover missions to other planets in search of discoveries that can lead to scientific breakthroughs.
But what constitutes an acceptable risk for a robotic mission, and when are mission controllers justified in taking them? As it turns out, a pair of researchers from the Robotics Institute‘s School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh have developed a new approach for weighing the risks against the scientific value of sending planetary rovers into dangerous situations. The researchers are now working with NASA to implement their approach for future robotic missions to the Moon, Mars, and other potentially-hazardous environments in the Solar System.Continue reading “When Should Robots Take Risks Exploring Other Worlds?”
How great are wheels, really? Wheels need axles. Suspension. Power of some kind. And roads, or at least swaths of relatively flat and stable terrain. Then you need to maintain all of it. Because of their cost many civilizations across human history, who knew all about wheels and axles, didn’t bother using them for transportation. Another way to look at it – much of human technology mimics nature. Of the simple machines, levers, inclined planes, wedges, and even screws are observed in nature. Why not the wheel?Continue reading “Robots Might Jump Around to Explore the Moon”
Lunar exploration has been gaining more and more traction from various sources recently. Every step forward is another towards potentially having a permanent human presence on another solar system body. ESA took another step recently with the completion of its Analog-1 robotics test, which took place successfully on the slopes of Mt Etna earlier this month.Continue reading “An Astronaut Controlled a Rover as it Collected Samples on Mt Etna. In the Future, it’ll be on the Moon”