The Canadian Space Agency (CSA), which invented and made the International Space Station's 30-year robotic Canadarm project, is working on lunar and Mars robot rovers. It recently unveiled five rover prototypes and put them through their paces on the agency's testing terrain, which simulates the surfaces of Mars and the moon.
The new lineup includes four lunar rovers -- the Micro-Rover Platform with Tooling Arm, the Kapvik Micro-Rover, the Artemis, and the Lunar Exploration Light Rover -- and the Mars Exploration Science Rover. They are in addition to the Juno and Rex rovers, which have been operating since 2010.
The CSA also developed some spinoff technologies resulting from its rover development work. They include the SL-Commander automated electric all-terrain vehicle, a fuel cell, and the Q6 mini-computer.
Click on the image below to check them out.
The CSA's Rex rover has a robotic arm that simulates collecting Martian rock and soil samples. It travels at 4cm/sec (1.57inch/sec). On its six aluminum or rubber wheels, the rover can navigate over obstacles up to 15cm (5.9 inches) high and climb slopes of up to 10 degrees. Rex weighs 140kg (308.64 pounds) and measures 152 x 142 x 76cm (59.84 x 55.9 x 29.92 inches). It can carry up to 30kg (66.13 pounds) of science payloads. In 2010, the CSA jointly field tested the rover with NASA at the Flagstaff Meteor Crater in Arizona. (Source: Canadian Space Agency)
These CSA rovers are a long way past "proof of concept." The concept(s) has(have) already been proven by Curiosity. These are correctly named prototypes, but they're not production prototypes, the type ervin007 apparently is thinking of; they're R&D/engineering prototypes, to test different designs and paths to achieving the same goals. CSA joint tests them with NASA, just like they did the Canadarms, and NASA has the means to put these on the moon, on Mars or in space.
The swarm of small RC autonomous robots have advantages of:
1) 50% or more of each bot is common, making the engineering and manufacturing easier
1a) use a low-power MPU (rad-hard, of course). Main power would be motors
1b) common to the chassis: motor, battery, radio/gps, charging, wheels, etc.
1c) there would be a common method of attaching the instrument package mechanically and electrically
2) terrain: base them on the RC cars that don't care about terrain - they can 4-wheel all they want. Obviously, the instrument packages would need to be robust, but we are dealing with fairly light-weight here in a 0.3G environment
Also see the Flee and the small bots at Boston Dynamics.
Some bots would be "refueling", ie go up to another bot and charge it up. They may be heavier than an instrument, so they can service several
Considering the Bouncy Ball delivery system did roughly a ton, and the "drop and pray" did two tons, they can deliver quite a load.
Assume each mini-rover is 20 lb. 100 would be 2000 or one ton. put the mother ship at another ton. That would work.
Also, by having a common body/chassis, the manufacturing is simpler.
I suspect the NIH factor at all levels - NASA is really prone to this. They tend to think in Big Things.
There would need to be a parallel project to put GPS satellites in orbit for the Mother and bots to track each other, plus communications to bounce a signal over the horizon (ie can use very low-power transceivers).
I was in Winslow for the nigh, so it was early the next morning, so traffic was very light. Peaceful. Easy. Feeling good because I was on the way home and my truck was running good (after the fuel pump failed in the middle of the Mojave).
Since I went thru the area the night before, it was dark and I missed stopping at Meteor City - something that only people driving past will ever see. They advertise as having the longest RT 66 map. Cool building...
I like the idea of small robots and swarms. Its a very nice idea. The issue would be weight. The smaller they get the more systems will be repeated from one unit to another. Also each unit will have its own protective shell, battery, charging system, motor system, guidance system, central processor. and while all these things have become relatively cheap and small it will still be difficult since they will add up from one unit to anothre. also the terrain is undefined, environment is undefined, etc.
I try to govern my thoughts & comments, to allow unconventional concepts to sink-in ,,,, you know, "There's no such thing as a Stupid Comment" ,,,, and really consider the intent before passing judgment. But even after pondering, these slides, I don't endorse them as viable. Slide 1 is prone to getting stuck in a small ditch. Slide2 is a dune buggy. Slide 3 carries 500 pounds but has no arms to pick anything up? The concepts get a little more stable in the subsequent slides, but overall, they don't seem to be well conceived.
mr_bandit, that sounds like an interesting alternative approach. I wonder if a) NASA and/or CSA have already considered and rejected this "client-server"-like model of lunar and Mars rovers, or b) that's something they haven't thought of. I wouldn't be surprised if the answer is a) and they rejected it based on the much higher cost of shipping all that stuff. (BTW, did you see "a girl my lord in a flat bed Ford"?)
about the need to look in the caves of Mars (sounds like a Dr Who episode..) for evidence of life.
Dr Boston explores extreme environments for extremophiles - she goes into caves with an environment of pH 1 (the suits start failing immediately; working time is about 45 minutes). There is a multitude of life in these environments.
Point is: find likely caves on Mars and send in 1000 small rovers. Some would drop repeaters on the way in. Some would be power sources. Some would deploy cables for dropping down. Don't worry about getting them back.
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