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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