NASA tests robots for manned move to Mars

Mars Lander and space station robots used as test beds for future use by astronauts

When astronauts first step foot on Mars, they won't be alone.

NASA scientists plan on pre-positioning robots and robotic rovers on the red planet before the first astronauts arrive. That way, the robots will be ready to help their human counterparts on what probably will be NASA's most taxing mission yet.

And while that's years away, NASA is testing its robotic muscle now. With three robotic arms aboard the International Space Station and the space shuttle Discovery returning from the most robotically intense mission yet, NASA is using this robotic work as a test bed for future missions.

"We're using robots a lot more," said Allard Beutel, a spokesman for NASA. "We keep increasing the complexity of the robotics work we do. This really complex robotics work is becoming commonplace. This mission was entirely dependent on robotics. We couldn't have done this work without them."

When astronauts get to Mars, they'll be using robots as part of their everyday existence, added Beutel. They'll also need robotics to help them build any workstation or habitat structure on Mars, or on the moon.

"The Space Station is a really good proving ground for the robotics," he said. "This is just the beginning."

Early in 2004, President George W. Bush set the goal of living and working on the moon for increasingly extended periods of time, and of sending human missions to Mars.

This week, the space shuttle Discovery detached from the International Space Station and is slated to land Saturday morning (US time).

The crew on the 123rd shuttle mission helped deliver a 33-foot-long, 1,716-pound Japanese-built robotic arm, called HTV, to the space station. The arm has six joints and is designed for use outside the Japanese Experiment Module, moving materials outside the airlock so scientists can see, for example, how they react when exposed to space.

This is the first of two Japanese-built robotic arms that will be used on the space station. Beutel said the second arm, which will be about 6 feet long with a grapple on one end, is scheduled to be delivered to the space station next year. The first arm isn't slated to be used until the second arm arrives.

The new Japanese arm joins two other robotic arms on board the space station.

Dextre is a 12-foot-tall robot with a 30-foot wingspan built by the Canadian Space Agency in Saint-Hubert, Quebec. Delivered by the space shuttle Endeavour in March, the US$200 million robot is designed to take on most of the maintenance jobs required outside of the space station, thus cutting back on the number of dangerous space walks the astronauts must make.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?