Robotic eyes can only see so much—some sensors don't operate well in low light, and sonor systems can be confused by polished surfaces. But thanks to a mechanical engineering student, robots that are sent into dangerous locations may soon be able to scurry in the dark like roaches. Owen Y. Loh of Johns Hopkins University has built a man-made antenna that is made of cast urethane and six strain gage sensors that change resistance as they are bent. Like a cockroach's appendage, the antenna sends signals to the robot's controller, enabling it to sense its position relative to the obstacles and maneuver around them. To view a short video about the cockroach-inspired research, go to http://rbi.ims.ca/4390-532.
NASA and Boeing developed a huge, carbon composite cryogenic fuel tank for deep space missions, and started testing it last month. The 18-ft cryotank will enable heavy-lift launch vehicles to send both humans and robots into deep space.
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