Thanks, Elizabeth. I think one thing the development of this robot shows is that space robots are becoming more specialized, as we also saw in this slideshow on some NASA is developing with the Canadian Space Agency: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=254560
Indeed, Ann, I think this may also have to do with some of the budget concerns NASA has had. Always a bastion of R&D, the agency now has to do more with less. So perhaps it's far better for them to specialize for specific tasks in their robotics research since they don't have the luxury of R&D for R&D's sake anymore. I will check out that slideshow! Partnering up seems to also be a good tactic to keep NASA R&D alive and as innovative as it's always been.
Elizabeth, those are good points about NASA's budget woes and research aims. I think this specialization also means that the basic space rover design platform has been worked out and they can now focus attention on more specialized tasks.
Yes, of course, you're right, Ann, but this type of focus likely will have a financial benefit to NASA as well, or at least allow them to disperse funds in the most useful way. Interesting stuff to cover, at any rate! I do enjoy the NASA stories. Will keep an eye out for your updates.
Wonderful, story, Ann. One thing this robot shares with the Mars Rover is the long list of constraints that the engineers need to manage in development. This type of project brings out the creativity in the design engineer.
Agreed, Rob. Although there are also some constraints of Curiosity it doesn't have--those that would involve sensitive scientific instrumentation--and others it has that Curiosity doesn't, such as some mechanical design for soil scooping.
Ann, I wonder if this machine is a precursor to mining projects. If we find sufficient valuable metals and elements on the Moon or Mars, than vehicles like this could do the mining with minimally manned ships picking up the payloads and bringing them home.
Good idea. Time to strip-mine the moon and fire bolts of ore back to the Earth.
Let's say we mine a trillion tons of ore from the moon and asteroids, adding the Earth's mass. Would that eventually slow the momentum, orbit, etc of the planet? I would imagine, since we would add more mass than there would ever be on the planet in our lifetime. (barring a major collision.)
Ahan Nasa is doing great work , But i have one question this Robot would have been created for a specific surface level and what i think is that over their its not necessary that all the area has the same surface i mean to say the size of the sand granulaes and pebbles may varry as well as this is a nature and nothing cant be constant .So what have they done in order to over come this issue as the robot can stuck as well because of large pebbels .
Deberah, the robot has been tested on several different surface types, as the article mentions. There's more detail about this in the technical paper I referred to in a previous comment, which unfortunately has been taken offline.
Mining the Moon is for future colonization. So, let's say we have established a small city. Would people born there, in low gravity, never be able to visit Earth without their bodies being crushed? Sad future for citizens of the Moon.
Yes, that makes sense that the robot would be designed to mine materials for local use. But that could change depending on what they find under all that lunar dust. If the materials they find have great value, they will make it back to Earth.
Excellent story, Ann. Leave it to NASA to come up with a robot that digs effectively. The barrel design is definitely very interesting as a way to overcome the lack of gravity. Definitely a different type of design problem.
Thanks, Al--I really liked the design concept, not what it is so much as how the engineers worked it out. They described it in more detail in a paper that became inaccessible after I first filed the story; the entire site---NASA's technical reports server--has been down for a month or so.
Researchers have been working on a number of alternative chemistries to lithium-ion for next-gen batteries, silicon-air among them. However, while the technology has been viewed as promising and cost-effective, to date researchers haven’t managed to develop a battery of this chemistry with a viable running time -- until now.
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