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NASA Space Science

NASA Robots and Rovers At Play In the Desert 54

Geoffrey.landis writes "Robots and rovers will be running around in the desert in the NASA Desert RATS ('Research and Technology Studies') test in Arizona, including the heavy-lift rover 'All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer,' or ATHLETE. (See videos from Some NASA robots from an earlier field test of robotic lunar excavators can be seen on video from the NASA page."
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NASA Robots and Rovers At Play In the Desert

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Shouldn't that be "DRAT"s?

  • THIS .... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @11:38AM (#29300463) Journal
    is exactly what NASA should be doing. RD to develop systems for off-world exploration and sciences. If we really do privatize Launch and hopefully human capabilities, we can allow NASA to go back to what they did in the 60's; RD new ideas/concepts and push the boundaries of science.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kj_kabaje ( 1241696 )
      While I agree with the premise of NASA doing more basic research the privatization remark is a non sequitur. NASA has consistently had its funding slashed [] since the 60's. Increasing funding to allow them to do basic research should be the aim, not maintain a budget which doesn't allow them to perform their current appropriate and mandated missions.
      • Typo in my post. I meant "appropriated", not "appropriate". I'm not trying to make value judgments on what missions NASA should and shouldn't do.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Of course NASA did a lot of desert work in the 1960s. They had to create all those fake moon-landing films and photographs they released in the early 1970s.

    • I think it is fair to say that manned programs push the boundaries of engineering and with it, science. Just because we got a person to hang out in orbit or walk on the moon means that we are masters of it. There is a lot to learn.

      Space science is a strategic priority for the United States or at least should be treated like one. If you need to have basic research and exploration, and I want my manned exploration, then let us geeks stand up for this one, double NASA's budget, and chop something else. Sur

    • Here [] they are testing a lunar port-o-jon. Slightly over sized so the astronauts can maneuver into position with all the space equipment

    • Imagine the discoveries that could be made if NASA had its head quarters on the South Pole of the Moon?
      • I thought that we already did. According to a number of posts here, it is just surrounded by either hollywood or desert.
        • There's more truth to your logic than meets the eye. I personally believe that if NASA were to actually get involved at the personal level of the exploration of space, then new discoveries would be more along the lines of what the average person would agree with; and from a revenue analysis, it's the average person that is paying for NASA's existence. From a more elevated horizon, Bureaucrats are successful at mantaining the Status Quo, not at Innovation. Space Exploration requires a more hands on experi
  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @11:38AM (#29300471) Journal

    "Martha, git me gun. I spotted one of them metallic Martian dogs again sniffing 'round a cactus. Everyone knows Martian dog pee is pure poison."

    • And here I thought Martian dog pee could be refined into a motor fuel.
      My mistake.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by causality ( 777677 )

        And here I thought Martian dog pee could be refined into a motor fuel. My mistake.

        Well yeah, but you wouldn't drink motor fuel. It's pure poison!

  • So what comes first (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Camaro ( 13996 )

    The acronym or what it stands for? I always wondered that. Maybe companys and organizations have a whole team of people who's sole job is to brainstorm cool acronyms and then figure out words to fit.

    Anyway, I still think this exercise would be cool to watch.

    • I agree, the exercise would be cool to watch, and by that I mean both exercises - the actual robots doing their thing, and watching people in a conference room try to brainstorm "not quite stupid enough to laugh" phrases that fit a word-based acronym.

      But, after all, NASA is the one who now has a treadmill called the "Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill", proving they have a sense of humor and a streak of brilliance at acronyms. They managed to appease the members of Colbert Nati

    • Not to be pedantic, but technically it's a bacronym. []
    • by smoker2 ( 750216 )
      Which acronym ? I'm thinking NASA, as I'm pretty sure it used to mean National Aeronautic and Space Agency. But here they are fucking around in the desert. Is that their purview ?
      Surely they should concentrate on flying and getting between planets ?
  • I think practicing around on ground-level is good, but one of the mayor problems is getting the buggers there safely on the ground. I'd practice them to land.
    • by sznupi ( 719324 )

      Uhm...those are typically two different vehicles, one being the carrier to the other (sure, you have to build the rover within certain mass & size specs, compatibility generally, but that's all, roughly)

  • All these films are sped up. There's possible a jump cut (human intervention? long delay?) in one or more of them.

    Will Moore's law make this go away? Is the problem a simple CPU issue? Will 8 times faster machines in 3-4 years give us speedy robots that don't need to be shown in fast motion?

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Is because the control software is written in Ruby
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by swanzilla ( 1458281 )
      Processing speed is not the issue at hand. Energy management basically requires these things to move slowly, in order to achieve the mission goals set forth. Regardless of the CPU, simulations like these are limited to roughly twelve hours of sunlight as the power source. You could design a robot to move very quickly, but the energy expended to increase speed would not be beneficial to the overall aim of the project. Take the Mars Pathfinder mission into consideration. Over the course of around 2000 h
      • So better solar panel, better batteries, etc. are the real slowdown, not mechanical stuff?

        Do you know if the processing power is now in excess, such that they could go pleasantly fast (unencumbered human speed or better) if they had unlimited power?

        • How fast do you want this thing to move when the Lag to and from Mars is measured in Minutes?

          Your fast Rover is very likely to wind up in a ditch before you see it coming to correct its trajectory.

          • While you don't want to travel fast, once you know an area very well, you want to dig samples quickly, pick things up and place them (if you're doing assembly) quickly, etc.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      All these films are sped up.

      That's so you can finish watching them before their server is slashdotted.

  • Since there have been a number of recent updates to GMOD (a Half-Life 2 open sandbox "game" where you can create just about anything you can think of within the limits of the physics/materials/models) came out I have played with it everyonce in a while and find it very fun to take ideas I've had in the past and try to make them and try to find out how well they would work. I think the potential is there for very easy and semi-realistic prototype and R&D type building to go on, the poor mans NASA testbe

  • I want one. It reminds me of the ODEX 1 [] robot from the early 1980s. However, this one is a lot more capable.

    I guess I'll have to get a few more motors and build one myself.
  • by Quantus347 ( 1220456 ) on Thursday September 03, 2009 @12:51PM (#29301261)
    I was involved in the project designing them, so I have to bring your attention to the wheels, which are adapted from Michelin's Tweel design, using metals rather than rubbers which cannot take the vast temperature ranges seen on the lunar surface. Its a spoke based system that is unique in that it accomplishes a uniform pressure on the contact area without the need for any sort of pressurization or air. And while the wire coil wheels used on the original lunar rover had a service life of weeks, these are intended to last years, so that the Athlete's can just roam around the moon, meeting manned missions at whatever landing site they'll be using.
  • by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <> on Thursday September 03, 2009 @12:53PM (#29301297) Homepage

    Clearly, NASA employs a Department of ACRONYMS:

    Artfully Coded & Readable Operative Names, Yielding Mnemonic Sentences.

  • they gave it six legs, just to be able to name it that way:

    'All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer,' or ATHLETE.

    • From the description

      The first version of the ATHLETE vehicle is under development and has the following characteristics:
      * Able to dock or mate with special-purpose devices, including a launchable/releasable grappling hook, refueling stations, excavation implements, and/or special end effectors

      That sounds like some wild "mating"... :D

IN MY OPINION anyone interested in improving himself should not rule out becoming pure energy. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.