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NASA Robotics Space Science

The Next Leap In Space Exploration 103

Posted by Zonk
from the not-made-by-man dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The crew of the space shuttle Endeavor recently returned to Earth as ambassadors, harbingers of a new era of space exploration. Scientists at NASA are saying that the recent assembly of the Dextre bot is the first step in a long-term space-based man/machine partnership. '"The work we're doing now -- the robotics we're doing -- is what we're going to need to do to build any work station or habitat structure on the moon or Mars," said Allard Beutel, a spokesman for NASA. "Yes, this is just the beginning." Further joint human-robot projects will "be a symbiotic relationship. It's part of a long-term effort for us to branch out into the solar system. We're going to need this type of hand-in-robotic-hand [effort] to make this happen. We're in the infancy of space exploration. We have to start somewhere and this is as good a place as any."'"
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The Next Leap In Space Exploration

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  • Yup! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by maillemaker (924053) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:13PM (#22882856)
    Wouldn't it be cool to launch your robotic servants to Mars long before humans went, and remotely control them (or not) to build the infrastructure for us before we arrive?
    • by superash (1045796)
      First we need technology that can help us (or robots) fly faster in space!
    • It would be cool. If only the robots needed to do that were anything more than science fiction. Not that an exploratory mission needs that much in the way of infrastructure in the first place.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      While the summary tends to allude to such future possibilities, this robot is a long ways away. It is a "human-robot project." Meaning that a human is required to perform the tasks, and that they are not automated. The Canadian Space Agency provides information on the robot. http://www.space.gc.ca/asc/eng/missions/sts-123/dextre.asp [space.gc.ca]

      Doing operations with these robotics requires a communication link, which would first have to be built by automated robotics (which this is not) or humans; I for one believe w
      • by megaditto (982598)
        Once you have fully autonomous robots, would you still need to go to Mars personally? Sightseeing?
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          It would be the first step in spreading humanity off of Earth. It would lead to a great advantage in the survivability of mankind.
        • by marnues (906739)
          I imagine we'll need some management types to oversee the robots' mining efforts and the terraforming work. That'll require engineers and technicians to be in close proximity when the managers screw everything up. Plus we'll need some satellite guys in case communications goes down. And then there'll be all the tourists (I can only imagine that your sightseeing remark is incredibly insightful.)

          Of course then Mars will see the colonists coming en masse. Any geek worth his salt will want a low Martian
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by davido42 (956948)
      Why the hell would we want to go to Mars? It's cold, boring, and I hear the food sucks!
    • Remote Controlling machines on the Moon would be tough with the 1 second lag. I ran across an article about Japanese researchers experimenting with the simulated lag to an orbiting satellite, but I can't find it right this second. Latencies to Mars are going to be many minutes. To do "remote control" you'd need to be able to give high-level commands, like: "okay, you assemble that wall over there. You help him by fastening the screws. You over there, you pile dirt on the back and sides of the hab modul
    • Funny how the Shuttle's Robotic arm and the ISS Dexter are called the robotic arms in the US, but called the "Canada-Arm" and "Canadian-Built Dexter Robotic Arm" here in Canada, where they were built and donated to the Shuttle program and ISS. Is this somehow related to yesterday's story about how the US tends to ignore rulings against them by the WTO, IMF, and NAFTA? ..and the snub after September 11th when GW thanked everyone for their help, except America's biggest trading partner and the country which
    • Um, wouldn't the 40 minute one-way light time be a bit of an obstacle?
  • Project "Borg".
  • ... I feel like it happens quite late, quite slowly, costs too much and still is underfunded.
    • ... I feel like it happens quite late, quite slowly, costs too much and still is underfunded.
      So what you're saying is you'd like early, quick, cheap, and well funded bad moods?
       
    • ". I feel like it happens quite late,"
      Is there some sort of galactic timetable only you are aware of? I'm not sure how it is 'late'.

      " quite slowly,"
      Compared tt other Man/Robotic space missions nobody else is aware of?"

      " costs too much"
      Compared to...?

      "and still is underfunded."
      Remember: Fast friendly and free.. no that's not the one...
      Fast, inexpensive, High Quality, pick two. That's the one!

      Yes, I would love them to get a lot more money, and be able to do more research in any given time frame.
      Human/Robot missions is the next logical(to me) step. I would love to see the Robots/Human in space argument end. It's stupid and pointless.
      • by Yvanhoe (564877)
        The timetable I am using is my life expectancy. I compare the pace of this R&D compared to the pace of R&D during the cold war and the fact that Russians have been autonomously docking for ages IIRC. It costs too much compared to what an industrial effort could bring (totally subjective, I admit, but I doubt the NASA is a champion of cost-effectiveness)
  • 3 years later (Score:1, Redundant)

    At a press conference in Huston TX, Allard Beutel told reporters:

    "We are the Borg. Lower your weapons and disarm yourselves. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile."
  • Huey, Dewey and Louie would be proud..
  • 2001 again. (Score:2, Funny)

    by castral (1253626)
    Just what do you think you're doing, Dave?
  • Evangelion? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The Queen (56621) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:20PM (#22882944) Homepage
    I wonder just how 'closely' together they intend to have us working? *shudder*
  • by QuantumFlux (228693) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:20PM (#22882948)
    Yes! With our new robotic workers, which we call "Cylons," we will usher in a new era of peaceful space exploration and colonization.
    • [quote]Yes! With our new robotic workers, which we call "Cylons," we will usher in a new era of peaceful space exploration and colonization.[/quote]

      Will they create their own [very hot] humanoid models too? In which case, I shotgun the Number 6 product line! Hell, I'll be the ambassador that goes to that space station every yeah...=P

      ~Jarik
  • Overstated a Bit? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by trongey (21550) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:21PM (#22882960) Homepage
    "Long-term space-based man/machine partnership"? Come on, they installed an assembly robot. Sure, it's a very nice one and pretty complex, but it's not like they fired up freakin R. Daneel Olivaw.
    • by zappepcs (820751) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:46PM (#22883208) Journal
      I'm with you on that one. A bit too anthropomorphic for my tastes, and I like hobby robotics. We are a long way from having to hold hands with a robot, they are little more than very expensive tools. Robots like the Aibo are little more than very expensive pets. Then again, some people think poison ivy looks pretty. There is no accounting for tastes. To my way of thinking, the robots we have sent to Mars already is an amazing thing so putting on in orbit is hardly a major leap forward in robotics technology. The whole hand holding things is rather sophomoric really.
    • I tend to think this man-machine-partnership-in-space was forged the day man entered space in a gigantic robotic capsule for the first time.

      Any progress is good, but this is in no way surprising. I'm actually puzzled why we didn't have a lot of these in place years ago.
  • Further joint human-robot projects will "be a symbiotic relationship".
    I can't wait to see how this space exploration research and development is going to change the world as we know it!
    (skynet)
    • by neokushan (932374)
      That's the most rediculous statement ever. They'll evolve into humans and look dead sexy, everyone knows that.
  • Not even close (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pla (258480) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:25PM (#22883000) Journal
    The crew of the space shuttle Endeavor recently returned to Earth as ambassadors

    Er, no. Sorry.

    They assembled and deployed the Ikea version of a semi-autonomous robot. Not even Darl could stretch that into returning as "ambassadors".

    The "next leap in space exploration" will happen when we start sending out one-way manned missions. Until then, we've done nothing more than piddle around in the local sandbox and thrown some rocks at pigeons.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CopaceticOpus (965603)

      The "next leap in space exploration" will happen when we start sending out one-way manned missions.
      Hey, I think somebody just volunteered! :)
      • by pla (258480)
        Hey, I think somebody just volunteered! :)

        They'd probably consider me just a tad too old for the mission, but if they'd send me... Hell yeah, I'd volunteer!

        History will remember the first man to walk (and die) on Mars. A middle-class software engineer, OTOH, may as well never have existed as far as posterity cares. And aside from the fame-factor, hey, I'll never make it off-planet any other way, so what a cool way to go! :)
    • "one-way manned missions"

      Sign me up, I'm ready to go!!!! I'm halfway through my expected life-span on this planet, why not start the second half on a different one?

  • by MistaE (776169) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:29PM (#22883024) Homepage
    ....that we don't build any robots that can read lips.
  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:31PM (#22883040)

    "The crew of the space shuttle Endeavor recently returned to Earth as ambassadors, harbingers of a new era of space exploration. Scientists at NASA are saying that the recent assembly of the Dextre bot is the first step in a long-term space-based man/machine partnership. '"The work we're doing now -- the robotics we're doing -- is what we're going to need to do to build any work station or habitat structure on the moon or Mars," said Allard Beutel, a spokesman for NASA. "Yes, this is just the beginning." Further joint human-robot projects will "be a symbiotic relationship. It's part of a long-term effort for us to branch out into the solar system. We're going to need this type of hand-in-robotic-hand [effort] to make this happen. We're in the infancy of space exploration. We have to start somewhere and this is as good a place as any."'""
    Am I paranoid or you too feel some dismissal of previous work.
    • Not really paranoid, I think NASA are the first to admit their previous mission's flaws; Whilst we put men on the moon, we threw them up there in a tin can, and we certainly didn't 'transport and settle' them there like we are looking to do these days.

      I feel NASA are much more calculated in their choices of missions these days, however I do wonder what their 'final aim' really is. Colonisation of mars? Or is all of this just prep work so we're ready when (if) we eventually make a breakthrough to interstella
      • by Thanshin (1188877) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @01:05PM (#22883430)

        I do wonder what their 'final aim' really is. Colonisation of mars? Or is all of this just prep work so we're ready when (if) we eventually make a breakthrough to interstellar travel?
        I think it's more of a "defensive stance". They are keeping the space travel technology on a reasonable level to be able to react quickly if another country suddenly reveals a huge breakthrough.

        If China suddenly starts to prepare a Mars colonization mission the USA will still have some people and enough infrastructure to keep the option of running for it.

        If nobody makes a move, they can wait until a less expensive investigation route produces a result that makes missions cheap enough.
        • by travbrad (622986)
          ^ Agree with the above post.

          There's also a powerful source of potential energy on the moon (and elsewhere in the solar system), Helium-3 (He-3), that could be used for nuclear fusion power generation. He-3 produces far less radioactivity than our current method, which loses most of the energy in the form of neutrons which "destroys" the equipment rapidly, not to mention all the radioactivity left over.

          The problem is we are currently nowhere near being able to actually produce electricity from it, even IF w
        • Your theory makes a disturbing amount of sense, on all levels. It explains an awful lot, passes political logic check, and fits the known facts. If only it weren't so damn depressing.
  • Despite the overwrought and flowery prose, it's just a machine, albeit semi-autonomous. Kind of like a steam engine with a governor. It performs tasks that are difficult or impossible for humans. Thanks.
  • by AJWM (19027) on Thursday March 27, 2008 @12:50PM (#22883236) Homepage
    Symbiotic relationship? Man/machine partnership? Ambassadors? Hand-in-robotic-hand? WTF?

    It's a fancy toaster, guys, get over yourselves. It's like having a symbiotic relationship with a swiss army knife.

    I'd expect this kind of mystical crap from people who don't understand technology and view it all through Clarke's 3rd Law filters ("indistinguishable from magic"), just as any other primitives do when imbuing things they don't understand with mystical spirits. So is Dextre the god of space robotics now? I weep for the NASA that used to be.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      "Symbitotic" isn't a mystical term, at all.

      "A relationship of mutual benefit or dependence."

      Normally referring to organic species, but that is do to the fact that machines are just now becoming mainstream enough to start hearing that term.
      For example, it would be correct to say "That man and his pacemaker share a symbiotic relationship". It's just unusually to say that.

      In short, Man missions will start to need robotic assitance, and robots need human assitance.... for Now(bum bum buuuummmm)

      Of course some ne
      • by AJWM (19027)
        "A relationship of mutual benefit or dependence."

        In what way is the relationship of a user with his tool of any benefit to the tool? How can any non-living object be said to derive a benefit from anything?

        For example, it would be correct to say "That man and his pacemaker share a symbiotic relationship".

        See, you're doing it yourself. That's just animism, although perhaps unconcious animism.

        What does the pacemaker get out of it? If it were an organism, gaining a warm place to live and an energy supply tap
    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      It's a fancy toaster, guys, get over yourselves. It's like having a symbiotic relationship with a swiss army knife.
       
      After extensive investigation we've discovered that the symbiotic relationship with the toaster is only slightly painful, as long as the toaster is turned off. No results with the swiss army knife for lack of voluntaries.

  • I can already hear the words "Dave? What are you doing Dave?"
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by geekoid (135745)
      Three rules:
      One - If a human passenger dies, the AI is automatically shut off via a mechanism the AI doesn't control.

      Two - Everyone carries a remote shut off

      Three - It's survival must rely on the survival of the human occupants.

      Of course, since it turns out HAL couldn't think outside it's programming and take an independant action, I would argue it wasn't an AI.

      • Well I'm not sure if there's an argument, 'he' was AI, pure artificial intelligence. That was the point. It was a perfect example of how intelligence is somewhat limited by it's carrying body. HAL was just as intelligent as the humans on Discovery, however had different weaknesses. The key thing is that no matter how bright HAL was (and he was BRIGHT), you could still unplug him. Just like you can throw a human out a cargo door, you can pull tapes out of HAL.
      • by ElAurian (133656)
        The AI goes to sleep if one human dies.

        So if one human dies, all the humans die? After all, the best reason to have an AI running a ship is that it's too complex for humans to do with peak alertness 24/7.

        I should also point out that it wasn't HAL's fault that the humans died; it was the stupid bastards who brainwashed him and didn't think about what they were doing.
  • It's one Hal of an idea!
  • Robot or Cyborg? (Score:2, Informative)

    by arjay-tea (471877)
    Aren't robots supposed to be autonomous? From what I understand, Dextre is a cybernetic manipulator. Why do people refuse to distinguish between robots and cyborgs?
  • ...oh, nevermind.
  • What really needs to get done is we need to take rapid prototyping to the next level. Here is how it is done.

    You build a machine that can be sent to the moon that can build most of the major parts that it is composed of and an all purpose humanoid robot that is remote controlled from earth. You power it with a combination of solar cells / nuclear generators. During the daytime you smelt lunar soil with the extra energy and make ingots of nearly pure elements along with capture the volitiles like Oxyge

EARTH smog | bricks AIR -- mud -- FIRE soda water | tequila WATER

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