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Mars Moon NASA Robotics Space Science Hardware

NASA Outlines Plan For Next-Gen Space Robots 89

Posted by Soulskill
from the more-than-meets-the-eye dept.
CWmike writes "Imagine a team of robots — some rolling on wheels, some walking on two legs — working alongside astronauts on the surface of Mars, scouting previously unseen locations, measuring the parameters of a new base or constructing a building. Now picture astronauts driving across the Martian surface in a vehicle. When the astronauts get out and begin their work, they can flip a switch to turn the vehicle into an autonomous robot that goes off to undertake projects on the planet. Whatever work the next generation of NASA-developed space robots does, it will be done in conjunction with their human counterparts. Terry Fong, director of NASA's intelligent robotics group, said that's the image that a lot of the US space agency's engineers have in mind as they work on the new robotic rovers. In comparison, the Mars rovers on the Red Planet have been working alone for years. 'We're working on a new use of these robots — robots to support human exploration,' Fong said. 'NASA is now thinking, "How do you go about sending humans to the moon or Mars or elsewhere? How can you use the combination of humans and robots to do exploration better?" I think it's a really, really fundamentally different approach.' Fong said he's hopeful that the next-generation robotic rovers will arrive on the moon or on an asteroid within five to 10 years."
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NASA Outlines Plan For Next-Gen Space Robots

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  • by icebike (68054) on Friday May 07, 2010 @01:22PM (#32130614)

    This sounds like a recipe for turning the humans into maintenance and support staff for the robots.

    It seems to me that every time man has developed such devices 4 or 5 times as many people who used to do the work are now employed supporting the device that does the actual work.

    A human needs food and shelter and science tools. A team of robot + humans needs all that plus a maintenance shop, additional technicians, spare parts, operations specialists to manage the robots when on-missions.

    A dumb transport might require some of these, but a "smart" transport will require more.

    We just barely are able to get a car to run a course with no on board humans [wikipedia.org], but the staff behind this project vastly exceeds the cost of hiring a driver. And the car still can't go half the places a driven car could.

    In short, this is a human resource sponge. It would be easier and less costly and require fewer humans to do this sort of science with humans than doing it with semi autonomous robots.

    And unlike flying Predator drones on the other side of the planet from an air conditioned office in Nevada, signal delay would require on-mars remote operations staff for anything more sophisticated than the Spirit and Opportunity rovers.

    Oh, and Send my only transportation off on some scouting mission while I take core samples in some remote ravine far from my base? I don't think so.

    Besides AMEE Freaks me Out. [wikipedia.org]

In the sciences, we are now uniquely priviledged to sit side by side with the giants on whose shoulders we stand. -- Gerald Holton

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