Robots have been going into space for a long time, as satellites, probes, and landers. One of the earlier robotic probes, the Voyager 1, launched in 1977, is still operating, and will soon leave the solar system along with Voyager 2. Other robotic spacecraft include the Juno, which is on its way to Jupiter; the Curiosity Mars rover, described below; and various Mars landers and space probes.
But some space robots don't get quite that far. Instead, they're either up in the International Space Station orbiting Earth, being tested as reentry vehicles in low-Earth orbits, or still on Earth undergoing R&D.
Click on the image below to see 13 examples of these space-worthy machines.
Justin is a humanoid robot being developed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) for tasks that are too dangerous for humans, such as repairing orbiting satellites. Like humanoid robots designed for home use, humanoid space robots must be dexterous, mobile, and capable of carrying out tasks that require complex manipulation of tools and objects. They also need to be intelligent and have the ability to undertake manipulations that involve the use of both hands. Justin has compliant-controlled lightweight arms and four fingers on each of its two hands. It's remotely operated by a human, and its mobile platform allows it to operate autonomously at longer ranges. The platform has individually movable, spring-born wheels to match the robot's upper body movements during manipulation tasks. Also contributing to the robot's autonomy are photonic mixer device (PMD) sensors and cameras that allow it to make 3D reconstructions of its environment. Eventually, Justin will be mounted on its own satellite. (Source: German Aerospace Center)
Nice slide show, Ann. Certainly depicts the wide range of robots, some humanoid and some mimicking insects and animals, that are an on-going part of the space program. It's interesting that so much of what you see in this slide show that was once only the domain of government-backed space programs is now filtering down into more mainstream applications.
Beth and Ann, that is a motley crew. Actually the NASA robot looks a little like the bounty hunter from Star Wars, doesn't it? I wonder that the Curiosity rover was not pictured. It seems to be one of the most complex yet.
Image 7, of the German DLR crawlers, is just plain scary.
By rights, the ESA ATV cargo craft that has flown to the space station 3 times, and the Russian Progress cargo craft that has gone to ISS dozens of times belong in this list. Both of those vehicle types dock automatically (albeit with a manual control backup mode).
The Japanese ATV and SpaceX vehicles are not as capable; they rendezvous automatically but must be docked using a different robot (CanadArm2).
I agree, Naperlou. The NASA robot does look like the bounty hunter from Star Wars. When I look at the headline of this article and look at the GM Robonaut photo, I am also reminded of the line, "Danger, Will Robinson."
Besides being a "great title for a "B" movie, why can't they build cars and airplanes out of the same stuff they built Voyager? That little puppy has been gone for 35 years and counting!
Great slide show, although some of them might give me nightmares, like the crawler spidery thingie.
I have always been impressed with how NASA not only keeps up but sets the bar for new things technology. Too bad they weren't smart enough to go back to the moon and keep the public's interest up, so they could get sufficient funding. And that is from a guy who thinks the government overreaches its authority doing such things.
As I recall, NASA's moon program was cut short by the government. There were supposed to be two more Apollo flights than actually happened. The program was axed by Congress on the grounds that we had proved our point and the money was better spent elsewhere.
Too bad. The next logical step would have been a permanent outpost on the Moon. The shuttles near earth capability was originally supposed to be a stepping stone in that direction.
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