Thu. Nov 30th, 2023
    New Ways Robots Are Revolutionizing Space Exploration

    Robotic technology is becoming increasingly valuable for space missions, providing assistance to crew members and automating tasks on the International Space Station (ISS) and beyond. With limited crew time available, the use of robots can significantly optimize resources and increase efficiency. One recent investigation on the ISS, the JEM Internal Ball Camera 2, showcases the potential of autonomous robotic cameras to capture video and photos of research activities, freeing up valuable crew time. This ongoing effort by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) aims to develop and refine robotic technologies for future space missions.

    However, autonomous cameras are just one example of the exciting advancements in robotic technology. The ISS is also home to three free-flying robots known as Astrobees, which demonstrate various forms of robotic assistance. The SoundSee Mission utilizes sound to monitor equipment on the spacecraft, detecting anomalies that could indicate potential malfunctions. The Astrobatics investigation showcases the hopping capabilities of robots, which could be crucial for traversing rough and uneven surfaces on the Moon or Mars. The Gecko-Inspired Adhesive Grasping investigation tests adhesive grippers inspired by geckos, allowing robots to rapidly attach to and detach from moving surfaces.

    Additionally, the ROAM investigation demonstrates a technology to observe and safely reach tumbling space debris, while the SPHERES investigation tested autonomous rendezvous and docking maneuvers with bowling-ball-sized spherical satellites. The ISAAC investigation combines the capabilities of Robonaut and Astrobees to track the health of exploration vehicles, transfer cargo, and respond to issues in space.

    These robotic advancements contribute to the success of future space missions by reducing the risks to crew members and optimizing their time. Robots can assist with a range of tasks, including intra- or extravehicular activities, equipment servicing, debris removal, on-orbit assembly, and exploration. Beyond space, robotic assistants have important applications in harsh and dangerous environments on Earth.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

    Q: How do autonomous cameras benefit space missions?
    A: Autonomous cameras, like the JEM Internal Ball Camera 2, can capture video and photos of research activities without requiring crew members’ time. This frees up valuable resources and allows astronauts to focus on other tasks.

    Q: What are Astrobees?
    A: Astrobees are free-flying robots on the ISS that showcase various types of robotic assistance. They demonstrate technologies such as sound monitoring, hopping maneuvers, adhesive grasping, and more.

    Q: How do gecko-inspired adhesive grippers work?
    A: Gecko-inspired adhesive grippers allow robots to attach to and detach from surfaces, even if they are moving or spinning. They are inspired by the adhesive properties of geckos’ feet.

    Q: How do robots assist with space debris?
    A: Investigations like ROAM utilize robots to observe and safely reach tumbling space debris, contributing to the development of technologies for rendezvous and docking maneuvers.

    Q: What is the role of robots in future space missions?
    A: Robots are expected to play a crucial role in future space missions by assisting crew members with various tasks, optimizing resources, and reducing risks associated with working outside spacecraft and habitats.

    Source: NASA