At a press conference this afternoon, NASA released a new video showing, in real-time and full color, the entire descent and landing of the Perseverance Mars rover. The video begins with the deployment of the parachute, and ends with the Skycrane cutting the rover free and flying away. It’s the most mind-blowing three minutes of video I have ever seen.
No matter how much brilliant work the folks at NASA and JPL put into their planetary exploration robots (and it’s a lot of brilliant work), eventually, inevitably, they break down. It’s rare that these breakdowns are especially complicated, but since the robots aren’t designed for repair, there isn’t much that can be done. And even if (say) the Mars rovers did have the ability to swap their own wheels when they got worn out, where are you going to get new robot wheels on Mars, anyway?
And this is the bigger problem—finding the necessary resources to keep robots running in extreme environments. We’ve managed to solve the power problem pretty well, often leveraging solar power, because solar power is a resource that you can find almost anywhere. You can’t make wheels out of solar power, but you can make wheels, and other structural components, out of another material that can be found just lying around all over the place: ice.
Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/space-robots/gitai-autonomous-robot-iss
We’ve been keeping a close watch on GITAI since early last year—what caught our interest initially is the history of the company, which includes a bunch of folks who started in the JSK Lab at the University of Tokyo, won the DARPA Robotics Challenge Trials as SCHAFT, got swallowed by Google, narrowly avoided being swallowed by SoftBank, and are now designing robots that can work in space.
The GITAI YouTube channel has kept us more to less up to date on their progress so far, and GITAI has recently announced the next step in this effort: The deployment of one of their robots on board the International Space Station in 2021.
Eleven years ago this week (or very nearly), the Spirit rover was noodling around in Gusev Crater on Mars when it drove over a thin hard crust of soil and broke through into a layer of soft sand underneath. The rover was already a little bit hobbled (understandable, since Spirit was something like 2,000 days into what was originally planned as a 90-day mission), and after months of trying, it became clear that Spirit wasn’t likely to move again. Unable to reach a position where its solar panels could be tilted toward the sun, Spirit froze to death during the Martian winter.
Larger rovers like Curiosity don’t have to worry about solar power, but getting stuck in soft surfaces is still a concern, since the options for getting a rover unstuck are limited—all you’ve really got to work with is the rover’s own mobility system.
In a paper published today in Science Robotics, researchers from Georgia Tech’s CRAB Lab led by Professor Daniel Goldman describe how they’ve worked with a NASA rover design to enable new mobility behaviors with actuated wheels that can avoid getting stuck. How do the wheels do that? By wiggling.
Post Syndicated from Evan Ackerman original https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/space-robots/nasa-begins-testing-next-moon-rover
NASA has decided that humans are going back to the Moon. That’s great! Before that actually happens, a whole bunch of other things have to happen, and excitingly, many of those things involve robots. As a sort of first-ish step, NASA is developing a new lunar rover called VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover). VIPER’s job is to noodle around the permanently shaded craters at the Moon’s south pole looking for water ice, which can (eventually) be harvested and turned into breathable air and rocket fuel.
NASA’s Astrobee robots have come a long, long way since we first met them at NASA Ames back in 2017. In fact, they’ve made it all the way to the International Space Station: Bumble, Honey, and Queen Bee are up there right now. While Honey and Queen Bee are still packed away in a case (and quite unhappy about it, I would imagine), Bumble has been buzzing around, getting used to its new home. To be ready to fly solo, all Bumble needed was some astronaut-assisted mapping of its environment, and last month, the little robotic cube finally embarked on its first fully autonomous ISS adventure.
It’s been nearly six years since NASA unveiled Valkyrie, a state-of-the-art full-size humanoid robot. After the DARPA Robotics Challenge, NASA has continued to work with Valkyrie at Johnson Space Center, and has also provided Valkyrie robots to several different universities. Although it’s not a new platform anymore (six years is a long time in robotics), Valkyrie is still very capable, with plenty of potential for robotics research.
With that in mind, we were caught by surprise when over the last several months, Jacobs, a Dallas-based engineering company that appears to provide a wide variety of technical services to anyone who wants them, has posted several open jobs in need of roboticists in the Houston, Texas, area who are interested in working with NASA on “the next generation of humanoid robot.”
Skybot F-850 will spend a week on the ISS charming astronauts with its sense of humor