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Robotic Exploration

PostPosted: Wed Oct 28, 2009 2:29 pm
by Non Sum
Far too much time, research, and budget is being wasted on the human element of space exploration. Just as deep undersea exploration has largely gone over to remote and robotic technology, so should exploratory field research in the even more inhospitable conditions found on alien astral environments. Granted, there is a major public relations bonus in placing humans front and center in any ambitious off-Earth project, and that can translate directly into larger budgetary grants. But, the potential for exciting discoveries, and their increase in frequency, should also serve to grab the public's attention, and at a more consistent level.

I am happy to see that NASA has not lost sight of the potential for unmanned exploration, and is even pursuing new approaches in remote and robotic vehicles. Perhaps, the ongoing cuts in their funding is actually helping to make this agency, not only leaner, but also much more meaner in terms of getting more done for less--with the emphasis on 'getting more done,' which is exactly where The priority should ultimately lie.

This excerpted from a recent NASA blog, found at:

Wolfgang Fink, visiting associate in physics at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena says we are on the brink of a great paradigm shift in planetary exploration, and the next round of robotic explorers will be nothing like what we see today.

"We are departing from traditional approaches of a single robotic spacecraft with no redundancy that is Earth-commanded to one that allows for having multiple, expendable low-cost robots that can command themselves or other robots at various locations at the same time."

In this mission scenario, an orbiter would circle Titan with a global view of the moon, with an air balloon or airship floating overhead to provide a birds-eye view of mountain ranges, lakes and canyons. On the ground, a rover or lake lander would explore the moon's nooks and crannies. The orbiter would "speak" directly to the air balloon and command it to fly over a certain region for a closer look. This aerial balloon would be in contact with several small rovers on the ground and command them to move to areas identified from overhead.

"We are basically heading toward making robots that command other robots," said Fink. "One day an entire fleet of robots will be autonomously commanded at once. This armada of robots will be our eyes, ears, arms and legs in space, in the air, and on the ground, capable of responding to their environment without us, to explore and embrace the unknown,"

Re: Robotic Exploration

PostPosted: Mon Nov 23, 2009 4:15 pm
by arising_uk
The problem with this is how would we 'control' such entities? I also 'worry' that if this is the way to go then 'others' may have done it and the thought of 'fleets' of autonomous alien 'robots' floating around does not fill me with joy. Especially if they need to replenish their own 'stocks' to proceed with their missions.

Re: Robotic Exploration

PostPosted: Fri Jan 01, 2010 6:48 pm
by RickLewis
It would be even scarier if these robot explorers could manufacture copies of themselves using local resources. On the one hand that would be a very efficient way for a species to remotely explore the universe. On the other hand, it would basically be a kind of virus!

Re: Robotic Exploration

PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2010 4:52 am
by JamesG
Not to mention try to come "home" again, possibly as an invader (Star Trek Movie plot line).

But yes, in most places its not only more convenient/efficient to use robotic systems, its the only way possible. Such as on the surface of Venus or the before mentioned Titan. Ironically, it also provides a rational for manned space too. The great distances in space means the time lag makes teleoperation tedious or impractical. Its easier and more time efficient to have the operators near by. Also, humans will still be better at fixing malfunctioning machines and adapting or improvising repairs and work a rounds as well. At least in the short term until we all bow down and welcome our new robot overlords. ;)

Re: Robotic Exploration

PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2010 7:33 am
by Intranaut
There is a midpoint for manned and robotic exploration though! (I'd consider about the midpoint anyway)
There are plans for not-so-near future to send people to Venus. Though they are not convicted criminals and that is not their death sentence. The idea is to have remote controlled robots on the surface and in the air being controlled by humans in an orbiter, getting rid of the lag issue like we see with the Mars rovers.
I think the robots would benefit, at least until they can really take care of themselves, from having people nearby for those quick fixes or solutions to serious issues.

Personally though I'd very much like to visit Titan myself.

Re: Robotic Exploration

PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2010 6:27 pm
by JamesG
Intranaut wrote:Personally though I'd very much like to visit Titan myself.

It might be an interesting place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there. Very cold and gloomy. Kinda like London. :|

Re: Robotic Exploration

PostPosted: Thu Sep 09, 2010 10:41 pm
by Intranaut
Oh goodness gracious no :P
But it would be pretty cool to see the hydrocarbon lakes and riviera at the north pole.