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NASA Robots and Rovers At Play In the Desert

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the not-enslaving-robots-no-sirree dept.

NASA 54

Geoffrey.landis writes "Robots and rovers will be running around in the desert in the NASA Desert RATS ('Research and Technology Studies') test in Arizona, including the heavy-lift rover 'All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer,' or ATHLETE. (See videos from newscientist.com). Some NASA robots from an earlier field test of robotic lunar excavators can be seen on video from the NASA page."

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cool (-1, Redundant)

Presto Vivace (882157) | more than 5 years ago | (#29300409)

just plain cool.

Panties STINK! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29300871)

Panties Stink!
They really, really stink!
Sometimes they're red, sometimes they're green,
Sometimes they're white or black or pink
Sometimes they're satin, sometimes they're lace
Sometimes they're cotton and soak up stains
But at the end of the day, it really makes you think
Wooooooo-wheeeee! Panties stink!

Sometimes they're on the bathroom floor
Your girlfriend- what a whore!
Sometimes they're warm and wet and raw
From beneath the skirt of your mother-in-law
Brownish stains from daily wear
A gusset full of pubic hair
Just make sure your nose is ready
For the tang of a sweat-soaked wedgie
In your hand a pair of drawers
With a funky feminine discharge
Give your nose a rest, fix yourself a drink
cause wooooooo-wheeeeeee! panties stink!

Dune coons (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29300415)

Dune coons and niggers at play in the desert. Ape-man eats sand, praises Allah. News at 11.

Re:Dune coons (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29300545)

This is actually very insightful because it is likely that this technology will be used to develop fully or partially-autonomous killing robots to fight in the Middle East.
 
The research is done under the umbrella of NASA so that the idiot public will feel good about it without thinking about how we'll be pissing our tax dollars and our credibility as a nation into the quagmire for another 10 years, just to fatten the pockets of the military industrial complex.

Re:Dune coons (3, Interesting)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 5 years ago | (#29300769)

Agreed, on many levels. You're completely right that this is a stalking horse.

On the other hand, if we're going to fight wars where we pacify populations then this is a much cheaper way to do it, in the long run, then the current way.

(I was about to say "pointless wars where we pacify populations" but you know, even though the one(s) we're in have been badly mismanaged by a pack of morons and at least one of them we had no business getting into at all, that doesn't mean that pacifying a country is always a pointless, devastating, callous exercise. Almost always, but not completely so.)

Besides, out of the killer robots which roam the countryside killing every biped or vehicle in a neutral zone will come better bots to clean our floors, install solar panels, manufacture AND install stuff, etc.

HG wells makes the point in _The Food of the Gods_ that every, EVERY technology gets used, no matter how annoying or absurd the consequences. And specifically every tech is ultimately used for war. HG Wells was right on so many things it's scary.

Re:Dune coons (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29302221)

HG Wells was right on so many things it's scary.

But not surprising. All the guys thinking this stuff up read HG Wells.

Re:Dune coons (1)

bitrex (859228) | more than 5 years ago | (#29303877)

HG wells makes the point in _The Food of the Gods_ that every, EVERY technology gets used, no matter how annoying or absurd the consequences. And specifically every tech is ultimately used for war.

You're talking about the SlapChop, right?

Re:Dune coons (2, Funny)

Paracelcus (151056) | more than 5 years ago | (#29300885)

But will they become self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time on August 29th and threaten humanity?

Desert Research and Technology Studies (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29300447)

Shouldn't that be "DRAT"s?

THIS .... (4, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#29300463)

is exactly what NASA should be doing. RD to develop systems for off-world exploration and sciences. If we really do privatize Launch and hopefully human capabilities, we can allow NASA to go back to what they did in the 60's; RD new ideas/concepts and push the boundaries of science.

Re:THIS .... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29300669)

is exactly what NASA should be doing. RD to develop systems for off-world exploration and sciences. If we really do privatize Launch and hopefully human capabilities, we can allow NASA to go back to what they did in the 60's; RD new ideas/concepts and push the boundaries of science.

The word "launch" is not a proper noun. Yet you capitalized it. Why would you do that?

Re:THIS .... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#29301033)

To launch anal people into a tizzy ;-P

Re:THIS .... (3, Insightful)

kj_kabaje (1241696) | more than 5 years ago | (#29301027)

While I agree with the premise of NASA doing more basic research the privatization remark is a non sequitur. NASA has consistently had its funding slashed [wikipedia.org] since the 60's. Increasing funding to allow them to do basic research should be the aim, not maintain a budget which doesn't allow them to perform their current appropriate and mandated missions.

Re:THIS .... (1)

kj_kabaje (1241696) | more than 5 years ago | (#29301385)

Typo in my post. I meant "appropriated", not "appropriate". I'm not trying to make value judgments on what missions NASA should and shouldn't do.

Exactly like the 1960s (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29301075)

Of course NASA did a lot of desert work in the 1960s. They had to create all those fake moon-landing films and photographs they released in the early 1970s.

Why NOT both (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#29301599)

I think it is fair to say that manned programs push the boundaries of engineering and with it, science. Just because we got a person to hang out in orbit or walk on the moon means that we are masters of it. There is a lot to learn.

Space science is a strategic priority for the United States or at least should be treated like one. If you need to have basic research and exploration, and I want my manned exploration, then let us geeks stand up for this one, double NASA's budget, and chop something else. Surely we can find 10B out of 150B a year of people that aren't really needing social security disability

Re:THIS .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29302765)

Seriously mod the parent down. This isn't insightful. The 60's were about a huge government investment into applied research, not all about pure science. Parent is way off base--lunar even.

Re:THIS .... (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 5 years ago | (#29304031)

Here http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=29107 [spaceref.com] they are testing a lunar port-o-jon. Slightly over sized so the astronauts can maneuver into position with all the space equipment

Re:THIS .... (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 5 years ago | (#29307369)

Imagine the discoveries that could be made if NASA had its head quarters on the South Pole of the Moon?

Re:THIS .... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#29310239)

I thought that we already did. According to a number of posts here, it is just surrounded by either hollywood or desert.

Re:THIS .... (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 5 years ago | (#29324105)

There's more truth to your logic than meets the eye. I personally believe that if NASA were to actually get involved at the personal level of the exploration of space, then new discoveries would be more along the lines of what the average person would agree with; and from a revenue analysis, it's the average person that is paying for NASA's existence. From a more elevated horizon, Bureaucrats are successful at mantaining the Status Quo, not at Innovation. Space Exploration requires a more hands on experience, not a bag a Popcorn, and a Drink while sitting in an air conditioned room at the 'Cape.

Predictable ending (3, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#29300471)

"Martha, git me gun. I spotted one of them metallic Martian dogs again sniffing 'round a cactus. Everyone knows Martian dog pee is pure poison."

Re:Predictable ending (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 5 years ago | (#29300601)

And here I thought Martian dog pee could be refined into a motor fuel.
My mistake.

Re:Predictable ending (2, Funny)

causality (777677) | more than 5 years ago | (#29301017)

And here I thought Martian dog pee could be refined into a motor fuel. My mistake.

Well yeah, but you wouldn't drink motor fuel. It's pure poison!

So what comes first (2, Interesting)

Camaro (13996) | more than 5 years ago | (#29300595)

The acronym or what it stands for? I always wondered that. Maybe companys and organizations have a whole team of people who's sole job is to brainstorm cool acronyms and then figure out words to fit.

Anyway, I still think this exercise would be cool to watch.

Re:So what comes first (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 5 years ago | (#29300915)

I agree, the exercise would be cool to watch, and by that I mean both exercises - the actual robots doing their thing, and watching people in a conference room try to brainstorm "not quite stupid enough to laugh" phrases that fit a word-based acronym.

But, after all, NASA is the one who now has a treadmill called the "Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill", proving they have a sense of humor and a streak of brilliance at acronyms. They managed to appease the members of Colbert Nation and get a good laugh at the same time. :)

Re:So what comes first (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#29301079)

I smell a new web-based biz startup

Re:So what comes first (1)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 5 years ago | (#29301537)

Not to be pedantic, but technically it's a bacronym. [wikipedia.org]

Re:So what comes first (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306367)

Which acronym ? I'm thinking NASA, as I'm pretty sure it used to mean National Aeronautic and Space Agency. But here they are fucking around in the desert. Is that their purview ?
Surely they should concentrate on flying and getting between planets ?

Learning to land (1)

Jerry Smith (806480) | more than 5 years ago | (#29300637)

I think practicing around on ground-level is good, but one of the mayor problems is getting the buggers there safely on the ground. I'd practice them to land.

Re:Learning to land (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29300695)

Yes, that should read 'major', darnit.

Re:Learning to land (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 5 years ago | (#29318543)

Uhm...those are typically two different vehicles, one being the carrier to the other (sure, you have to build the rover within certain mass & size specs, compatibility generally, but that's all, roughly)

Sped Up (1)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 5 years ago | (#29300799)

All these films are sped up. There's possible a jump cut (human intervention? long delay?) in one or more of them.

Will Moore's law make this go away? Is the problem a simple CPU issue? Will 8 times faster machines in 3-4 years give us speedy robots that don't need to be shown in fast motion?

Re:Sped Up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29300923)

You mean like this one? [hizook.com]

My guess is either that these robots are designed for lighter gravity and therefor underpowered or the inserted lag in the testing to similate real world conditions of distance.

Of course there is also the possibility that they are slowing the maneuvering in an attempt to not damage them or even rotate different programing training (people at the controls) and so on.

Re:Sped Up (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29300939)

Is because the control software is written in Ruby

Re:Sped Up (3, Informative)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 5 years ago | (#29300989)

Processing speed is not the issue at hand. Energy management basically requires these things to move slowly, in order to achieve the mission goals set forth. Regardless of the CPU, simulations like these are limited to roughly twelve hours of sunlight as the power source. You could design a robot to move very quickly, but the energy expended to increase speed would not be beneficial to the overall aim of the project. Take the Mars Pathfinder mission into consideration. Over the course of around 2000 hours, the rover took over 17000 pictures and travelled about 100 meters. It didn't move quickly, but achieved what it set out to do.

AH! (1)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 5 years ago | (#29301153)

So better solar panel, better batteries, etc. are the real slowdown, not mechanical stuff?

Do you know if the processing power is now in excess, such that they could go pleasantly fast (unencumbered human speed or better) if they had unlimited power?

Re:AH! (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 5 years ago | (#29301799)

How fast do you want this thing to move when the Lag to and from Mars is measured in Minutes?

Your fast Rover is very likely to wind up in a ditch before you see it coming to correct its trajectory.

Re:AH! (1)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306161)

While you don't want to travel fast, once you know an area very well, you want to dig samples quickly, pick things up and place them (if you're doing assembly) quickly, etc.

Re:AH! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29306997)

Have two robots designed to compliment each other and released at the same mission site.

First robot will be your scout. It'll have a good enough AI so it won't go jump off a cliff, so you don't have to worry about 8-minute lag time. And it'll be able to traverse terrain at a good 5-10 MPH (8.05 - 16.09 km/h) for 10 hours at a time, so you can cover a lot of ground and find things of interest. It won't have much extra equipment other than optics, and it's com-link can be minimalized and won't need much power because the second robot will have the relay package and recording equipment that does all the talking back to home. So it can well afford to be "zippy".

Second robot will contain the science packages and mission communications and not be all that fast. But it can be programmed with safe routes determined by the first, so it doesn't need much at all in the way of AI. It's energy can be used to run more equipment and data sampling stuff. It should be more effective with the equipment, because instead of deciding where to take the equipment the operating team already knows where it should go. So it just traverses from one job to the next, while the first robot does all the looking.

On the topic of robots that both walk and roll on wheels with minimal transition, ask Japan. Anime artists have been designing those things for years. Although few have actually been built, some conceptual designs are well enough within plausibility that they're worth developing with real engineering behind them. NASA variants of a tachikoma-type chassis in rover form would be pretty spiffy and effective.

Re:AH! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29307889)

twin scouting is already in the works, has been for a while. the intelligent robotics group at ames is putting a lot of thought into "robotic precursors". so are many other people. that said, there's no real reason to make them superfast. they carry a lot more than optics, though all the instrumentation is currently along those lines.

the thing is, optics don't necessarily tell you what's interesting, and the real point of scouting is to high-grade sites for more careful investigation. so the K10s have already been tested with things like optics (binocular), gigapan, microscopic imaging, ground penetrating radar, and lidar... things useful to geologists and engineers.

the idea is to get them there with enough lead time to be useful. that's relatively easy. then, during the frequent downtime required during human exploration, the robots keep working. the rover concept CHARIOT will also be able to work on its own. there's no reason to just make "vehicles" when most of the time the stuff is up there, humans won't be around to tell it what to do.

Re:Sped Up (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#29300999)

All these films are sped up.

That's so you can finish watching them before their server is slashdotted.
     

GMOD + Reallife = NASA! (1, Interesting)

carp3_noct3m (1185697) | more than 5 years ago | (#29301019)

Since there have been a number of recent updates to GMOD (a Half-Life 2 open sandbox "game" where you can create just about anything you can think of within the limits of the physics/materials/models) came out I have played with it everyonce in a while and find it very fun to take ideas I've had in the past and try to make them and try to find out how well they would work. I think the potential is there for very easy and semi-realistic prototype and R&D type building to go on, the poor mans NASA testbed! I have seen and made many designs, and one that I keep coming to is some sort of all terrain vehicle (I am a ATV and Jeep guy that loves off roading) and many of my designs have looked very similar to the ATHLETE. One thing I think those scientist types could use is some real world off-roading/rocking experience. Anybody can just rumble across rough terrain, the important part is to do it A) without breaking anything or putting yourself at an extreme risk/reward ratio, and B)Do it well enough that it actually becomes "smooth". Off roading is all about wheel-placement and physics estimation combined with experience. If my wheelbase is X long and my approach/departure angles are B and this incline is Y steep, should I attack it straight or at an angle, etc. Anyway, now I'm just rambling but I would give a left nut to have the funding to be able to create some of my off-roading ideas in real life, so its really cool to get to see other people able to, till then back to GMOD.

Re:GMOD + Reallife = NASA! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29307835)

A lot of those folks do have off-roading experience. The SCARAB (I think it's CMU's), which showed up at Moses Lake last year, has been working the rocking (rocking the working?) pretty hard. I think they call their technique "worming". It's essentially rocking applied to getting up steep slopes. Good stuff. You should read up on it, I think you'd enjoy it.

The ATHLETEs are huge and designed to carry extremely high-value payloads. They are slow - though faster than I would have expected - and can do some really neat stuff with their legs/wheels.

As a counterpoint, the K10 series robots are more of the "scout" type mentioned in a different post. These are smallish, made with as many COTS elements as possible (running RHEL for example), and designed with multiple control modes (full/part autonomy) in mind. They do the scouting in advance of higher-value exploration / engineering. One of the things they were experimenting with last year were com bricks, a sort of trail-of-breadcrumbs com network idea.

! *LIKE* It! (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#29301069)

I want one. It reminds me of the ODEX 1 [inebraska.com] robot from the early 1980s. However, this one is a lot more capable.

I guess I'll have to get a few more motors and build one myself.

Take a Look at the Tweels (5, Interesting)

Quantus347 (1220456) | more than 5 years ago | (#29301261)

I was involved in the project designing them, so I have to bring your attention to the wheels, which are adapted from Michelin's Tweel design, using metals rather than rubbers which cannot take the vast temperature ranges seen on the lunar surface. Its a spoke based system that is unique in that it accomplishes a uniform pressure on the contact area without the need for any sort of pressurization or air. And while the wire coil wheels used on the original lunar rover had a service life of weeks, these are intended to last years, so that the Athlete's can just roam around the moon, meeting manned missions at whatever landing site they'll be using.

Re:Take a Look at the Tweels (0, Offtopic)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 5 years ago | (#29306383)

Nice.

Dept of A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.S. (4, Funny)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 5 years ago | (#29301297)

Clearly, NASA employs a Department of ACRONYMS:

Artfully Coded & Readable Operative Names, Yielding Mnemonic Sentences.

RIP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29303221)

From TFA:

The tests will include a simulated 14-day mission during which two crew members -- an astronaut and a geologist -- will live inside NASA's prototype Lunar Electric Rover. They will scout the test area for features of geological interest and conduct simulated moonwalks to collect samples.

If only they had thought of that a few months ago they could have conducted a genuine moonwalk.

g:Naa (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29303425)

Problepms 3ith

I wonder if... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#29304389)

they gave it six legs, just to be able to name it that way:

'All-Terrain Hex-Legged Extra-Terrestrial Explorer,' or ATHLETE.

Oh, and.. (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#29304483)

From the description

The first version of the ATHLETE vehicle is under development and has the following characteristics:
[...]
* Able to dock or mate with special-purpose devices, including a launchable/releasable grappling hook, refueling stations, excavation implements, and/or special end effectors
[...]

That sounds like some wild "mating"... :D

you 1nsensitive clo[d! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29305985)

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