NASA: Lawn mower-size robots may build lunar outpost
Researchers say 330-pound robots could create moon outpost before manned missions
Computerworld - Robots the size of riding lawn mowers could be used to start building a lunar outpost before humans make their next trip to the moon, according to a study by researchers at Astrobotic Technology Inc. and Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute.
"NASA faces a challenge in planning the layout for its outpost, which is expected to begin operations in 2020," said William "Red" Whittaker, chairman and chief technical officer of Astrobotic and a Carnegie Mellon professor of robotics, in a statement. He added that NASA will have to figure out how to construct a landing site so that each rocket landing and takeoff won't blast buildings and equipment with rocks and soil.
The new robots would be the latest of several that will be put to work on NASA moon missions. NASA has said that the future of space exploration will depend on humans and robots working hand-in-hand as manned and unmanned missions head to the moon, to Mars and farther into space.
Robots have already made their way into several space missions, but Carl Walz, director of advanced capabilities at NASA and a former astronaut, said in a previous interview that "we're just starting to scratch the surface of these concepts. It'll be absolutely critical. What we're trying to do is figure out how best to incorporate human exploration and robots. I think the nature of exploration will be different [because of robots]."
Last year, a 7.5-foot long robotic arm on the Mars Lander scraped up ice and scooped up Martian soil for analysis. Matthew Robinson, robotic arm flight software engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said last summer that the robotic arm was the key piece of the whole Mars mission. The robotic arm and the Mars Lander froze to death last November in the lengthening Martian night.
The two Mars Rovers, Opportunity and Spirit, also have robotic parts that are helping them traverse the Martian landscape and send information back to Earth. And onboard the International Space Station, a $200 million, a 12-foot-tall robot was set up this past spring to handle maintenance jobs outside the facility, relieving astronauts of the need to make many dangerous space walks.
Allard Beutel, a spokesman for NASA, said in an earlier interview with Computerworld that such missions are the first steps in a robotic partnership that will help humans press further out into the solar system.
"The work we're doing now -- the robotics we're doing -- is what we're going to need to do to build any workstation or habitat structure on the moon or Mars," said Beutel. "Yes, this is just the beginning."
- 15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand
- How 19 Tech Titans Target Healthcare
- Twitter Suffering From Growing Pains (and Facebook Comparisons)
- Agile Comes to Data Integration
- Slideshow: 7 security mistakes people make with their mobile device
- iOS vs. Android: Which is more secure?
- 11 sure signs you've been hacked
- 4 Customers who never have to refresh their PCs again This paper illustrates a common theme: the combination of desktop virtualization and thin client computing helps organizations deliver an up-to-date user experience more...
- Mobile Devices: The New Thin Clients Get essential guidance for understanding the role thin clients plus virtual desktops play in the enterprise today.
- Taking Windows Mobile on Any Device Taking Windows applications mobile has many advantages, but the process of identifying a solution is complex. Learn how to solve this complex problem...
- PaaS - Powering a New Era of Business IT Why PaaS has suddenly become relevant and irresistible to many organizations. Dive into the opportunities and considerations associated with using PaaS from an...
- Redefine Your IT Operations: Remote Office IT Has Never Been Simpler Join us to see why PC Pro named Dell PowerEdge VRTX the "2013 Server of the Year." PowerEdge VRTX may be just what...
- The New Way to Work Knowledge Vault This Knowledge Vault focuses on how, in today's increasingly virtual world, it's more important than ever to engage deeply with employees, suppliers, partners,... All Hardware White Papers | Webcasts