Robots are useful for space exploration because they can withstand the harsh environments and can manage to be lonely for long durations unlike humans. Ever since, robots of less advance and highly advanced technology have helped us understand the universe better by sending to earth the precious data they collect each second.
Some Famous Robots Sent on Space Missions
Mars Pathfinder robot was sent by NASA for scientific research in a robotic vehicle Sojourner, named after Sojourner Truth. It was the first robotic mission to probe outside the earth-moon system. It became successful in giving us insights about the environment on Mars.
Launched on December 4, 1996, and landed on July 4, 1997, the Mars Pathfinder was fitted with three devices that made observations. First, an Alpha Proton X-ray Spectrometer (APXS), that analyzed the components of the rocks and soil. Second, three cameras (two black and white and one color) to help the rover navigate and provide images of its surroundings to understand Mars geology. Third, Atmospheric Structure Instrument/Meteorology Package that gave information of the atmospheric layers of Mars during its descent and landing. It ended its mission on September 27, 1997.
InSight is short for ‘Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations’. Designed by NASA to get knowledge about the interior of the planet Mars, InSight was launched on May 5, 2018. It was equipped with SEIS (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure), that measured marsquakes and the seismic activity going on inside; HP (Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package), which was capable of burrowing heat inside Mars surface. It was designed to study how heat flowed on the surface of Mars. Third equipment was RISE (Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment), designed to study the rotation of Mars. It was launched on 5 May 2018 and landed on November 26, 2018. InSight is still functional.
Kirbo was the first Japanese space robot. It was designed by the University of Tokyo to help reduce the stress of astronauts. Kirobo has the ability to speak like a humanoid, wave hand, stand on its own and adapt to low gravity. A smaller version of this robot was also used by Toyota as a playful toy.
NASA’s CIMON (Crew Interactive MObile Companion) is also an assistant robot for the crew of the International Space Station. It takes advantage of low gravity and floats freely among the astronauts on the ISS.
NASA’s curiosity rover is a car-sized rover robot designed to study the Gale crater on the surface of Mars. It was launched on November 26, 2011 and landed on Mars on August 6, 2012. Its mission is to explore the chances of survival of microbial life on the planet by collecting the soil samples, and studying the history of water deposits. It is the heaviest robot mission on Mars and weighs almost 900 kilograms. Its source of energy is a plutonium based thermoelectric generator that can last up to 14 years.
R5 aka Valkyrie
NASA’s R5 became something of a celebrity because it is a walking talking humanoid robot. 6 feet 2 inches tall, Valkyrie will help future human missions on Mars during times of crisis to repair and fix the damage. The robot, just like humans is capable of gripping objects, lifting them and fixing things. It can also walk on difficult terrains, even though its walk is a bit weird. Its fitted with sensors and cameras in her head and chest to gather information to process.
Restore-L is a to-be NASA robot which will refuel on-site satellites and extend their life. It may even grab and bring back the old and non-functional old satellites to minimize the space debris around earth.