New rugged legged robots for future Moon expeditions
Jul. 13, 2023.
1 min. read Interactions
Teams of robot miners will explore unknown terrains
An AI chatbot could generate a fraudulent but authentic-looking scientific medical paper—unleashing Pandora's box
Several space organizations, including NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), are developing advanced legged robots for future expeditions to investigate and locate valuable rare minerals on the Moon.
These minerals may include lithium and graphite, used in EV batteries, and neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium and terbium, used in wind turbines, as noted in Columbia Climate School’s State of the Planet).
New robots designed to traverse unknown terrains
Unlike current wheeled robots, these new rugged robots will have to “traverse steep slopes, unstructured terrain, and loose soil as a team with complementary skills,” according to the journal Science Robotics. They will need to “swiftly navigate granular slopes beyond 25°, loose soil, and unstructured terrain, with advanced locomotion, perception, and measurement skills” that are “currently out of human and robotic reach.”
Several lunar exploration efforts revolve around NASA’s Artemis program, which focuses on robotic and crewed science and exploration at the lunar south pole.
A fleet of advanced specialized robots
Swiss scientists from ETH Zurich are currently using an entire fleet of vehicles and airborne devices that harmonize with one another. As shown in a video, one robot was specifically programmed to excel in terrain mapping and geological classification, using a laser scanner and multiple cameras, including some equipped for spectral analysis, to gather preliminary information about the mineral composition of rocks.
The other team’s specialized robot was trained to accurately identify rocks by using a Raman spectrometer and a microscopy camera.
Citation: Arm, P., Waibel, G., Preisig, J., Tuna, T., Zhou, R., Bickel, V., Ligeza, G., Miki, T., Kehl, F., Kolvenbach, H., & Hutter, M. (2023). Scientific exploration of challenging planetary analog environments with a team of legged robots. Science Robotics. doi.org/ade9548 (open access)