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NASA Tests Hardware, Software On Armadillo Rocket

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the shape-of-things-to-come dept.

NASA 108

porcinist writes "On June 23 NASA successfully tested hardware and software on an Armadillo Rocket. With the end of NASA's Constellation program in sight, NASA is starting to focus on new, innovative exploration programs like Project-M. This project is meant to land a robotic humanoid on the moon in a thousand days. To meet this goal NASA teamed with Armadillo Aerospace and Draper Labs (the lab responsible for creating the original Apollo Guidance Computer) to integrate and flight test a real-time navigation system in only seven weeks. This might be the fastest thing NASA has done in 30 years. Maybe NASA is taking Obama's new vision to heart."

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THIS IS NOT A PROBLEM !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32785210)

This is a good thing for all concerned !!

First Flight? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32785212)

First Flight?

Gotta love john carmack (3, Informative)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785230)

There's a charming video of him giving a talk at nasa about how really rocket science isn't as hard as people claim.

Re:Gotta love john carmack (3, Insightful)

Low Ranked Craig (1327799) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785424)

Of course it's not... now. You still have to be pretty smart to understand all the physics involved, but it's one thing to have to create all that stuff from nothing via experimentation, and another to be fortunate enough to have the existing body of work to build upon.

Re:Gotta love john carmack (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32790576)

You do realize that Carmack is creating all this stuff from nothing via experimentation, right? Armadillo's development method is based on building hardware, testing, building new hardware and testing again, and so on.. with turnaround on new designs measured in days. It has more similarities to how rocket scientists worked in the 1940's and 50's than the way most "space agencies" work now... If you had an idea to tweak the design of a NASA engine, it would be years before the change would be put into metal assuming you could get through the bureaucracy in the first place.

Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32785486)

It's not exactly brain surgery.

Re:Well... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32785536)

It's not exactly brain surgery.

It's not exactly solving the poincare conjecture.

Re:Gotta love john carmack (1)

uninformedLuddite (1334899) | more than 4 years ago | (#32791070)

I recently downloaded Rocket Manual for Amateurs(1960) [4shared.com] and it's a classic. It contains some basic rocket science aimed at model rocket enthusiasts and for anyone interested at a layman level it's a must read.

Why humanoid? (2, Insightful)

GSV Eat Me Reality (1845852) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785232)

Surely there are designs that can meet the demands of the environment better than the human form.

Re:Why humanoid? (3, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785268)

Two things. First, the humanoid is the result of millions of years of recent evolution. It's a solid design. Sure, you probably can come up with a better design, but why throw away what already works? That's wasteful. Second, we have millennia of human technology designed for the humanoid form. Why throw that away either? Same argument about waste applies.

Re:Why humanoid? (5, Insightful)

destroyer661 (847607) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785318)

Two things. First, the humanoid is the result of millions of years of recent evolution. It's a solid design. Sure, you probably can come up with a better design, but why throw away what already works? That's wasteful. Second, we have millennia of human technology designed for the humanoid form. Why throw that away either? Same argument about waste applies.

Sure, on Earth. We haven't been living in space for millions of years, but under the Earth's gravity, the atmosphere, etc. Space is an entirely different environment and we would likely have developed entirely different in that environment. The tools argument is the most valid of the lot, but realistically we could/already have designed something better to accomplish tasks.

Re:Why humanoid? (2, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785394)

Last I checked, Earth was the only game in town. And many tools and infrastructure either don't depend on this environment or can be modified slightly to work in your space environment. Space isn't an entirely different environment. The laws of physics, for example, remain the same.

The tools argument is the most valid of the lot, but realistically we could/already have designed something better to accomplish tasks.

And pay considerable more for that design.

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785480)

And when an entity with millions of years of evolution in space drops by to say "Hello", I am quite sure we will attempt to copy as many of its advantages as possible. Until then, we work with what we have. Or perhaps you have a few truly inspired and genius designs with which you would like to enlighten us?

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786074)

I think it's the best idea, because we are humanoid, and we can help another humanoid deal with various problems. The simplest case would be for instance, in the event of some unusual problem, a direct interface robot-human. you put on your gloves, your headset, and you start moving naturally, while your moves are replicated by the robot.
keep things as familiar as possible when going into the unknown. and remember: the department of redundancy department is your friend when in outer space.

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 4 years ago | (#32789486)

Sure, on Earth. We haven't been living in space for millions of years, but under the Earth's gravity

True. But this robot while be operating on the Moon and, possibly, on Mars where there is gravity.

It is a neat question, though. How will the lighter gravity on the Moon and Mars affect walking? Astronauts on the moon tended to "bunny-hop" because walking was difficult. Will this robot be able to "learn" to walk in 1/6 gravity?

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

put_it_down (1847636) | more than 4 years ago | (#32790104)

So if the robots break for whatever reason, how do we send a team up to accomplish their job with their tools? I'm not saying it's a bad idea, rather that to go with another form, it might take more development than the /. community is prepared for. Unless you would like to start with making /. a place for non humanoid robots. That might make for a good april fools day joke.

Re:Why humanoid? (2, Funny)

stjobe (78285) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785348)

Sure, the humanoid form is great - for humans. At our current level of technology it's awkward at best for our robots.

The humanoid form is a solution to a set of problems that our ancestors needed to solve to survive. Our robots don't need to solve the same problems, so it might actually be better (read: less wasteful) to design non-humanoid robots.

That said, I'm all for the fem-bots.

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785378)

Sure, the humanoid form is great - for humans. At our current level of technology it's awkward at best for our robots.

Unless the robots happen to be humanoid enough in form to use off the shelf tools and hardware. I don't see that making specialized hardware that only one or two robots use is better or cheaper than reusing hardware that billions of humans already use.

The humanoid form is a solution to a set of problems that our ancestors needed to solve to survive. Our robots don't need to solve the same problems, so it might actually be better (read: less wasteful) to design non-humanoid robots./quote I disagree. In my view, there is considerable overlap in the problems that ancient humans had and robots have now. And nothing prevents you or anyone else from designing non-humanoid robots now. Maybe, if the design is good enough, we'll adapt people to that.

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785954)

like how specialized printheads are wasteful for machines to use when humans have been using perfectly good,cheap paint brushes for thousands of years.

We should just design machines with hands similar to human hands that can use paint brushes and ignore costly tech like injet technology.

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786806)

like how specialized printheads are wasteful for machines to use when humans have been using perfectly good,cheap paint brushes for thousands of years.

And printing is just as flexible, open-ended, simple, and dynamic as exploring the surface of another world. I think the analogy is broken.

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787938)

not really.
Humanoid simply isn't a particularly good design for a lot of things.

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32788834)

Humanoid simply isn't a particularly good design for a lot of things.

For the sort of open-ended, complex problems we're discussing here, yes, it is with the key reason being that it is backwards compatible with human technology. I've already spoken my piece and explained why. I really don't know why people are so adverse to the humanoid shape.

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#32791020)

because a design built around a calcium based skeleton, which has to include the business end of a Von Neumann machine and a circulatory system and digestive system + protection for all of the above is stupid to emulate when what you're building isn't a Von Neumann machine, can use metal rather than calcium carbonate for it's frame and has no need for a circulatory or digestive system.

something more spiderlike makes vastly more sense for unknown hazardous terrain.
If you really really want it to be backwards compatible because apparently you think engineers like putting hand grips on things rather than bolt holes then just stick a human style arm or 2 on the top. It's not like it needs to fit in a space suit.

You may have dismissed my point about inkjets out of hand on the basis of not wanting to be challenged but the fact is that the human tech you so want to be backwards compatible isn't very good.
If you have a machines precision and control you can do a hell of a lot better with specialized tools.

Lastly the cost of putting things into orbit is huge.
you're going to want to customise most of what you send up if only to save weight.
It costs 10,000 bucks per pound to get stuff to geosynchronous orbit so if you spend 5000 bucks getting a custom tool to cut a pound off the weight(say by replacing hand grips with bolt holes and using lighter materials) then you've just saved 5000 bucks.

By any chance did you read Asimov a lot when you were younger?

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32791614)

Lastly the cost of putting things into orbit is huge. you're going to want to customise most of what you send up if only to save weight. It costs 10,000 bucks per pound to get stuff to geosynchronous orbit so if you spend 5000 bucks getting a custom tool to cut a pound off the weight(say by replacing hand grips with bolt holes and using lighter materials) then you've just saved 5000 bucks.

How long do you think that condition is going to last? My view is that there is a long term trend to cheaper launch costs. And for chemical rockets, the floor on launch costs is around $100 per pound for a frequently launched, reusable launch vehicle to LEO. That would be about $200 per pound to GSO (if we go directly from Earth to GSO). So almost two orders of magnitude in cost reduction to go.

By any chance did you read Asimov a lot when you were younger?

I still do read him on occasion.

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#32798078)

http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewnews.html?id=301 [spaceref.com]
have a look at "GEOSYNCHRONOUS TRANSFER ORBIT"

Now of course that will drop but I think you're being more than a little optimistic assuming it will reach 1% of that price any time soon.
Perhaps if someone builds a space elevator(or similar).

The reason I mention Asimov is that he had a bit of a thing for humanoid robots. Old romantic really. And it is true that if you want people to interact with machines naturally then humanoid would be good but really if you want the machines to be able to use off the shelf tools then a pair of humanlike hands is all you really need- a humanoid torso, legs and head don't do very much for you unless you also want your robot to take part in a sci-fi movie.

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785406)

Sorry, I messed up my reply.

Sure, the humanoid form is great - for humans. At our current level of technology it's awkward at best for our robots.

Unless the robots happen to be humanoid enough in form (they don't need to be fully humanoid in order to have a humanoid arm or three) to use off the shelf tools and hardware. I don't see that making specialized hardware that only one or two robots use is better or cheaper than reusing hardware that billions of humans already use.

The humanoid form is a solution to a set of problems that our ancestors needed to solve to survive. Our robots don't need to solve the same problems, so it might actually be better (read: less wasteful) to design non-humanoid robots.

I disagree. In my view, there is considerable overlap in the problems that ancient humans had and robots have now. And nothing prevents you or anyone else from designing non-humanoid robots now. Maybe, if the design is good enough, we'll adapt people to that.

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

wealthychef (584778) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785542)

[Adult Swim]I'm waiting for the Adrienne Barbeau-bots. [/Adult Swim]

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

GSV Eat Me Reality (1845852) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785382)

That's ridiculous. For one thing, the humanoid form was not designed, it evolved, and it's hardly optimal even for it's own environment. "millennia of human technology designed for the humanoid form" - yeah? Like what? Chairs, toilets, car seats, bicycles, ? I haven't had my coffee yet this morning but I can't think of much else that demands a humanoid form. Most things that can be manipulated by a five finger hand can be manipulated by other forms of grippers, and in any case manipulatory appendages aren't really the debate here.

  Something like it with all the joints involved is certainly not going to be optimal for a harsh, dusty environment such as the lunar surface. Designs like the mars rovers with their multiple balloon tires and low center of gravity would be perform better in low G.

  Personally I think the humanoid design is a sop to public relations.

 

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

BiggerIsBetter (682164) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785392)

Personally I think the humanoid design is a sop to public relations.

Maybe it's good for R'n'D, and practise for sending real humans later.

Re:Why humanoid? (3, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785472)

For one thing, the humanoid form was not designed, it evolved, and it's hardly optimal even for it's own environment.

It works for its environment. The human evolved to solve many of the same problems that robotics designers have to deal with in space. It doesn't matter if the process was designed/intentional or not. It's free work that already happened. Plus there are a few billion humans around who already use the form in question.

"millennia of human technology designed for the humanoid form" - yeah? Like what? Chairs, toilets, car seats, bicycles, ?

Yes, also hand tools, mechanical interfaces, building designs, transportation systems, etc. Or are you going to claim that the end state for human development of the Solar System is going to be the occasional box with instruments to some distant location?

Something like it with all the joints involved is certainly not going to be optimal for a harsh, dusty environment such as the lunar surface. Designs like the mars rovers with their multiple balloon tires and low center of gravity would be perform better in low G.

Whoa. Dust in space? We have dust on Earth. How do we keep it from getting into human joints? Skin... whoa. So what can balloon tires manipulate on Mars? Right, they're just for transportation and not a real argument against the humanoid form. If there were humans on Mars, they'd probably have multiple balloon tires and a low center of gravity too just as they do on Earth. Did someone forget about the automobile?

Re:Why humanoid? (2, Insightful)

Dragoniz3r (992309) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787040)

So your contention is that we should send a humanoid robot to the moon, because hand tools have been developed to fit the human form? Got news for you buddy, this robot isn't going up there with a Ryobi power drill and a Craftsman toolbox. Your arguments might have merit if it was a discussion of sending humans versus sending rovers, but it's not. It's about sending a bi-pedal robot versus sending a rover.
No matter what we send up there, it will NOT be re-using all these technologies that you point to as having been designed around the human form. It will have a few dedicated appendages.
I can't decide if you're a troll or not, but the debate here is about method of locomotion. The chassis we put our probes in isn't the point. Whether it's humanoid, a rover, or shaped like a box, the significant differentiating factor is how it gets around. Look at the state of humanoid robots here on earth. What makes you think they'd work any better on a relatively uncontrolled, chaotic surface like the moon's? Guess what? The moon isn't going to have even floors and nice staircases!

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32788186)

Why the hate?

So your contention is that we should send a humanoid robot to the moon, because hand tools have been developed to fit the human form? Got news for you buddy, this robot isn't going up there with a Ryobi power drill and a Craftsman toolbox.

Actually the R2 robo-torso (in TFA) was built for the ISS, so it was intended to work in an environment designed for human EVAs. Hence all the grips, parts, tools, and distances between them, etc, were built to human scale.

Sending a teleoperated R2 torso plus legs to the moon is intended to lower costs by reusing existing work, not designing an entirely new teleoperated rover. Also, it's a wonderfully general purpose design, if your mission goals are changed part way through development.

Plus you develop a type of technology, an expertise in humanoid robots and teleoperation, that will assist in future missions where you are mixing human and robot missions.

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32789316)

I can't decide if you're a troll or not, but the debate here is about method of locomotion.

I haven't bothered before to point out that it isn't just about locomotion. Humanoid isn't just bipedal. The counterarguments have been so sloppy that it hasn't been relevant before.

Re:Why humanoid? (1, Insightful)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785810)

So are tigers, octopuses, chimpanzees, rhinos, giraffes, and pretty much any other animal design you care to think of (and there are thousands upon thousands). There is zero reason why a monkey shaped robot is the best solution for a scientific mission to the Moon.

And the argument about reusing technology is spurious in the context; everything sent into space is custom designed and made anyway (right down to the ball-point pens). It's not like NASA would launch a sample return mission armed with a Dyson vacuum cleaner and a pair of binoculars.

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786722)

So are tigers, octopuses, chimpanzees, rhinos, giraffes, and pretty much any other animal design you care to think of (and there are thousands upon thousands). There is zero reason why a monkey shaped robot is the best solution for a scientific mission to the Moon.

How many of those forms are tool-users? We don't have millennia of sophisticated tools available for the octopus or rhino forms, for example.

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 4 years ago | (#32793864)

So what you're saying is that you're desperate to send an authentic medieval crossbow to the moon, and are looking for something that can operate it?

Wait, no? You want to send custom designed cameras, drills and microscopes to the Moon? Then wouldn't they be just as easy to design them for use with pretty much anything with a corresponding interface?

All the "shape of the robot" will affect is its ability to move about on the lunar surface. Humans aren't known for being particularity good about moving about on any surface, lunar or otherwise.

Re:Why humanoid? (3, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786016)

Two things. First, the humanoid is the result of millions of years of recent evolution. It's a solid design.

Yes, that explains why birds, snakes, dogs, horses, lizards, etc all have humanoid shapes, and use humanoid methods of locomotion. Face it, bipedalism is rare for a reason. If you want all terrain evolutionary designed locomotion, look to the insects.

Second, we have millennia of human technology designed for the humanoid form. Why throw that away either?

Part of that technology base is an invention called "The Wheel". It has proven excellent where mobility and stability have been required. Furthermore, it doesn't need a lot of extremely complex, real time force feedback, orientation and gravity sensors, and computers to run. See, while humans have had millions of years to evolve, robots haven't. I hope this thing will be able to get up when it slips on a rock and falls down the side of a crater. I've never seen video of a humanoid shaped robot being able to get up while on a slope. Oh, and let's not forget the power requirements. Is a robotic walking gait less of a drain on batteries than a rocker-bogey system?

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786778)

Face it, bipedalism is rare for a reason.

It exists however and it works. Plus, I also mentioned the tool inventory.

Part of that technology base is an invention called "The Wheel". It has proven excellent where mobility and stability have been required. Furthermore, it doesn't need a lot of extremely complex, real time force feedback, orientation and gravity sensors, and computers to run. See, while humans have had millions of years to evolve, robots haven't. I hope this thing will be able to get up when it slips on a rock and falls down the side of a crater. I've never seen video of a humanoid shaped robot being able to get up while on a slope. Oh, and let's not forget the power requirements. Is a robotic walking gait less of a drain on batteries than a rocker-bogey system?

Not sure what you think you're trying to say here. "Wheel" is a concept. A lot of things use them. Doesn't mean that we can or should design a robot based merely on a concept. "I want a robot that has 'wheels'." What kind of requirement is that? A humanoid robot at least is compatible with current human technology. It could drive cars, wield tools, etc. Further, if some part of the humanoid form is undesirable, like legs, we can always replace them with wheels. After all, we already have humans with wheels (cars, wheel chairs, wheeled office chairs, etc). As to the alleged video, keep looking, I'm sure you'll see one in the near future.

Re:Why humanoid? (0, Troll)

uninformedLuddite (1334899) | more than 4 years ago | (#32791100)

Part of that technology base is an invention called "The Wheel".

Has this been patented yet?

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 4 years ago | (#32794542)

Face it, bipedalism is rare for a reason.

Yes, because most animals don't need to travel several km over terrain each day. If they did, they'd be bipeds. Still the most efficient form we know of...

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#32796302)

What are you talking about? Quite a number of animals travel several km of terrain per day. Horses, deer, various kinds of cattle, wolves, deer, bears, elephants, giraffe, wildebeest, zebras, and others. Enough time has passed for their form to have developed bipedalism if that was actually more efficient. What seems to be more efficient is long limbs. The only primarily bipedal animals are birds, kangaroos, and people. Birds because they have wings. Kangaroos (and relatives) are from Australia, home to all sorts of evolutionary oddities. Mankind is the only bipedal mammal.

All this is irrelevant, though:

Although R2 resembles like a human with two arms he moves with set of 4 wheels which makes him perfect for exploring planet surfaces. Many robots were sent into space before but none of them looked like a human more than this one.

So, it's more of a centaur with wheels instead of legs.

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786106)

Well, first off people are not good at standing up without consuming energy, so a biped, if it really behaves like a human cannot turn off dynamic stabilization. A hexapod on the other hand can, a car doesn't need any dynamic stabilization at all.

Maybe there needs to be a number of different systems: cars to move things around quickly, hexapods to climb difficult terrain, androids to..., I don't know, to test environments for humans?

There is no real reason to make a humanoid robot for sending it to space at least unless the goal is somehow to share or to test living accommodations.

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786696)

Well, first off people are not good at standing up without consuming energy, so a biped, if it really behaves like a human cannot turn off dynamic stabilization.

Please come up with a better argument. First, dynamic stabilization is not a significant energy consumer (especially in a low or zero gravity environment). Second, with a few seconds of thought, I came up with three ready solutions to the problem: leaning, sitting, and lying down.

Re:Why humanoid? (2, Insightful)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786736)

A better argument? Sure, how about securely stabilizing oneself in an environment not suited for only 2 legs, how about standing over a small crater? How about distributing weight across more than 2 points (feet) when digging? How about using 2 legs to provide vertical stabilization, while using 4 more to move down/up a steep slope? How about redundancy? How about running quickly, as in galloping if needed? Carrying more weight than a biped can? Please, we have 2 legs as a balance between our nutrition requirements vs. our physical output, we have not evolved to work on a Moon. I am not saying hexapod is the best at everything, I am saying that being a biped on a Moon for a robot may not at all be useful for many situation except as in testing ground for human habitat or because humans and robots should share some habitat/living quarters, which also begs the question: why do that?

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32788812)

Those are better arguments, but we've already solve those problems on Earth using humanoid compatible technologies.

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

memorycardfull (1187485) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786396)

Two things. First, the humanoid is the result of millions of years of recent evolution. It's a solid design. Sure, you probably can come up with a better design, but why throw away what already works? That's wasteful. Second, we have millennia of human technology designed for the humanoid form. Why throw that away either? Same argument about waste applies.

Third, you don't want to waste the opportunity to make your robot look like frickin' Boba Fett. Same argument about waste applies yet again.

Re:Why humanoid? (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785390)

The idea is telepresence. Theoretically the experience will be more immersive (and thus have more wow factor, and thus lead to more funding) if you control a humanoid. Of course, the problem is lag, which will utterly prevent any immersion anyway. I think it's dumb, too. If we had FTL communications then it might make sense.

Re:Why humanoid? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32785416)

not dumb, human in orbit, bot on planet, much safer for the human and much less of a latency issue.

Re:Why humanoid? (3, Interesting)

openfrog (897716) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785838)

The idea is telepresence. (...) Of course, the problem is lag, which will utterly prevent any immersion anyway. I think it's dumb, too. (...)

You make it sound such an evidence that I almost did not take notice; a bit over a 2 seconds time lag (back and forth) "utterly" prevents any immersion?

Not so sure... Telepresence was also my first thought, and I think this is not dumb at all. Thinking about it, I think this is genius: you get all the advantages of man space exploration without the cost. You get the vital (in terms of funding) wow factor. Furthermore the technology you develop for that might have very useful applications on earth.

Not dumb, not dumb at all.

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786122)

The ideal place for an operator to be would be the Earth-Moon L2 point... as long as the robot was on the same side of the moon.

If you count encoding there's more than 2 seconds lag due to signalling used over such distances. And you need a full round trip, also...

Re:Why humanoid? (2, Insightful)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785462)

Public relations - being a political publically funded body, a humanoid form is much more appealing to the average taxpayer than a spider. (ew, yuk! why is it so ugly?) You know, we're talking about people who elect politicians based on their haircut.

Re:Why humanoid? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32785470)

This is one of the few times where I hope we don't discover a secret alien lair; it would be too embarrassing for humanity if our robot had to take the stairs [youtube.com] , and we would soon be invaded and conquered.

Re:Why humanoid? (1)

safetyinnumbers (1770570) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786444)

Surely there are designs that can meet the demands of the environment better than the human form.

Roomba?

Exploration (4, Insightful)

Gonoff (88518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785286)

Until human beings actually go somewhere "out there", it is not exploration. It is investigation.

Sending a robotic device to the moon is good preliminary investigation, but until people go back there, exploraion will not have restarted.

Mars is completely unexplored. A lot of time & money has been well used on investgating it but the next stage needs to start.

Re:Exploration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32785496)

No necessarily. Refer Oil Exploration.

Re:Exploration (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32786114)

Refer Oil Exploration

As in "what were they smokin'?"

Re:Exploration (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785552)

A lot of time & money has been well used on investgating it but

I think it might be better said that a lot of time and money has been spent trying to find solid justification to send a human out there. Fossils, liquid water, or better yet a real lifeform surviving on the planet would guarantee funding for decades to come. Until that day comes we're stuck playing with grownup RC toys on other planets.

Re:Exploration (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785560)

Until human beings actually go somewhere "out there", it is not exploration. It is investigation.

Uh huh. That's semantics games. The obvious rebuttal is that nobody else uses that definition of "exploration".

Re:Exploration (1)

100_Monkeys_Typing (662396) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785658)

The word and concept of "exploration" is not necessarily human related. Animals and robots acting on our behalf can and do "explore." Why did the chicken cross the road? I would argue: "to find new resources and to expand it's knowledge of the surrounding area." Sounds like exploring to me. I don't necessarily disagree that humans should at some point wander around Mars and beyond, i think that the available tech for human travel beyond LEO is still too costly to bring us enough return on our investment.

Re:Expiation (1)

noshellswill (598066) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785924)

Meatland expiation is not needed. Send robobots ... fuck space.boyz with tin vuvuzelaz! Spend the saved money on shooting down weeetbakkk border_jumpers and on building a new (wild) salmon hatchery.

Re:Exploration (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786302)

If you refuse all exploration done using technology, you refuse everything we can't see with the naked eye. People care about discoveries, not about how long the wire between the sensor and the display is. If we send a probe 10 km below the sea, does it matter if the man watching the camera is inside the tin can or up on the surface watching the same monitor? Not to most people. Also, for 99.9% of us we'll never see it by our own eyes anyway, only what is documented. And a robot can document as well as we do, what would an astronaut on Mars tell us? Probably something like "Yep, it's just like the pictures. Want me to take some more?", so unless they can do something we can't make robots do it's just for the sake of doing it. Then it's only about bringing a bubble of human habitability there and back again, not to discover anything on the outside. That most people would not call exploring...

Re:Exploration (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786602)

I think the OP is confused about the difference between exploring and colonization. The former we can do with 'expensive RC toys', the latter will probably require the ISV Venture Star.

(Wanders off muttering 'God bless Vespucci land ... ')

Re:Exploration (0, Flamebait)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786914)

>Until human beings actually go somewhere "out there", it is not exploration. It is investigation.

Bullshit semantics. Be it via meatbag or via robot, you're still exploring. Except the meatbag option is 1000x the cost and gives us less than 100000x the range with current technology. We've explored Venus and Saturn and Jupiter. You can deny it all you want, but you wont convince anyone outside of your marginalized minority echochamber.

Re:Exploration (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#32791198)

Yeah, and we should plant a cross and a flag.
What is more like exploration ? having a map of the underground resources gathered from orbit or having a man saluting a flag and exploring a 500x500m area of the planet ?
Humans are very bad and clumsy at exploration. You need them for colonization, but exploration (ie : gaining knowledge about unknown lands) is better handled by robots.

Re:Exploration (1)

Gonoff (88518) | more than 4 years ago | (#32794240)

I am not sure what a cross or a flag has to do with it. I would be more than happy to have a flag for everyone used in future exploration but suspect that this would go down in some parts of the US about as well as a national leader who actally knows that 96% of the human race are from outside the USA.

Like I said, investigation is good because it brings knowledge, but that is a different thing from exploration. No, I am not talking about colonisation. Exploration is when a sentient being goes somewhere they have not been before. It might be a kid exploring or it might be someone wandering accross Antartica. Colonisation is when they stay there. We have explored (A tiny bit of) the moon but I don't believe there are colonies there.

Yes, it may be a bit semantic, but that is what we are doing here - using words. Sometimes exploration might not be possible/affordable/safe. That doesn't mean that investigation is the same thing. Soldiers might send in a machine to investigate a building. This is good. We all hate our people dying. Once the robot or whatever has checked it out, then humans go in.

Seven weeks! (2, Interesting)

rgravina (520410) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785368)

NASA teamed with Armadillo Aerospace and Draper Labs ... to integrate and flight test a real-time navigation system in only seven weeks.

They probably just replaced their Waterfall software development process with something agile, like Scrum. :)

What's that, three two-week iterations with one one-week pre-launch crunch?

Rep. Bill Delahunt has no clue (-1, Troll)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785434)

Only Senators represent people from a specific State. Rep. Bill Delahunt
is responsible to ALL citizens. He is a NIGGER ! He needs to be removed, in
as much he has no clue how the system is supposed to work.

Re:Rep. Bill Delahunt has no clue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32785562)

Is that you Sen. Robert Byrd?

Cool; Now, lets get it to the moon (2, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785436)

Seriously, the VTVL are actually designed for the moon. The amount of energy to llo is about the same as to hit 60 m/100 km on earth. That means that if the vehicles (including armadillo, new shepard, and masten's) are able to hit 60 m, then they can come back from lunar surface. What is the use of that? Send a large fuel depot and then we have a truck that can send cargo down to the surface and then return.

BTW, the fact that this was done so quickly, hints to me that this is the second vehicle. I am guessing that the first vehicle IS the new shepard.

Re:Cool; Now, lets get it to the moon (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | more than 4 years ago | (#32788794)

Send a large fuel depot and then we have a truck that can send cargo down to the surface and then return. [...] BTW, the fact that this was done so quickly, hints to me that this is the second vehicle. I am guessing that the first vehicle IS the new shepard.

Err, I think you may have run off with the fairies a little there. Read TFA [nasa.gov] and watch the videos, this is a low-mass low-funding mini-mission to demonstrate technology/techniques. If it gets fully funded, it'll launch on a regular old off-the-shelf Atlas, and it won't come back. It's a lovely project, and I hope they get fully funded, but it's not a major mission.

Upon landing the robot will deploy and walk on the surface performing [...] science of opportunity (i.e. using existing sensors on the robot or small science instruments); and simple student experiments.

The mission is about inspiration, streamlining agency practices and processes and using unconventional partnerships, and building a workforce and demonstrating technologies to enable the continuation of human exploration beyond low earth orbit.

Re:Cool; Now, lets get it to the moon (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#32789796)

It's a prototype, that particular vehicle won't be going to the Moon.

It's a stunt designed to help Obama kill NASA (0, Flamebait)

tiqui (1024021) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785446)

The robot is not new, the "robonaut" has been around for many years... it's what you get when the government throws some R&D cash at the auto industry

Since a robot will be sent, the launch vehicle and lunar lander will not be man-rated, so they are not in the path to sending humans at a later date. The joke is that Obama says we have no need to return to the moon, so then his boys plan a robotic moon landing to show the public that they are doing something in space. If successful, the robot in the moon will give ammunition to Obama's anti-space supporters who have wanted to redirect all NASA money into the welfare system for many years.This mission will signal the end of American manned space exploration.

Re:It's a stunt designed to help Obama kill NASA (3, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785564)

Yes, Obama is all about killing NASA. In his first year, he bumped up the budget 2 billion. He has taken NASA back to its roots of doing the RD and advanced systems that private companies do not want to do. And he has focused NASA on doing the ground work for monster projects; Such as a fuel depot. Or an inflatable Space Station (lowering costs a great deal, and increasing safety). Automated docking for the fuel depot. Multiple types of space-rated engines;

OTH, W bumped the budget in 2006, while pushing a nightmare system starting in 2004.

Re:It's a stunt designed to help Obama kill NASA (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787242)

Automated docking for the fuel depot.

Hows that working out for you? [slashdot.org]

Re:It's a stunt designed to help Obama kill NASA (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#32788348)

That Russia's system. And of course, the same one that the Chinese stole as well. What I said is that NASA is developing their own (or they might consider working with ESA).

Re:It's a stunt designed to help Obama kill NASA (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32790092)

There is this thing called "risk". It means that things don't always work out as you expect. Space activities remain among the riskiest human endeavors. So just because something didn't work out one time on a Progress flight, doesn't mean a thing to me.

Re:It's a stunt designed to help Obama kill NASA (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785580)

Since a robot will be sent, the launch vehicle and lunar lander will not be man-rated

No manned launch vehicle or lunar lander has been man-rated either.

Re:It's a stunt designed to help Obama kill NASA (1)

the gnat (153162) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786862)

If successful, the robot in the moon will give ammunition to Obama's anti-space supporters who have wanted to redirect all NASA money into the welfare system for many years.This mission will signal the end of American manned space exploration.

The silliest thing about this tired, predictable troll is that none of the complaints that I've read about NASA's manned space program are calling for the government to spend less money on NASA. If anything, most of us would prefer that NASA's budget be increased substantially, but for more robots and deep-space probes, instead of massive money pits like Constellation and the ISS. (It's always funny how "redistribution of wealth" is acceptable when it's directed towards bloated aerospace contractors.) Personally, I'm not sorry to see the shuttle being retired, and I think a manned Mars mission is a waste of money right now, but I also really hope SpaceX is successful, and I'd probably wet my pants with excitement if Obama resurrected the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter. (For the unfamiliar, this probe would have had multiple ion engines powered by a nuclear reactor, and thus wouldn't have been totally dependent on gravity assists - perhaps a good test case for future manned ships, but Bush canceled it in favor of a Mars trip, presumably using conventional chemical rockets. Ugh.)

Re:It's a stunt designed to help Obama kill NASA (1)

Paracelcus (151056) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787290)

You wrote that Obama want's to "redirect all NASA money into the welfare system". If you analyze his past priorities based on his first year in office he most likely will be using the money for big money corporate bail-outs and defense (war) spending.

Those people who like to paint Obama as an old line welfare-state liberal need to actually read and pay attention to what the man is doing, he (Obama) is, in fact, just as much of a right-wing warmongering, fascistic, corporate/big money stooge as the Shrub ever was.

He ain't Black, he's Wall Street beige!

1000 days from start (1)

Dolphinzilla (199489) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785546)

3 years !!! I would hope we could put a small robot on the moon in 3 years - NASA/JPL designed/built and launched Spirit and Opportunity Rovers to Mars in 3 years

Re:1000 days from start (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785590)

  1. Rovers are MUCH easier to design, and build, esp. when you already had others there.
  2. Mars is MUCH easier to land at esp. for something as light as the rovers. It has an atmosphere.

OTH, doing a humanoid robot will enable it to be of use here in the states. Why? Low-end work. In addition, such a robot will be useful for a mars/moon base. The reason is that they will have similar constraints as humans, but will tolerate extremes better. They will basically be able to continue building a base while humans do things that robots can not do; think, adjust intellectually to numerous conditions, such as figuring out what rocks or crevasses to look at, etc.

Re:1000 days from start (1)

Dolphinzilla (199489) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785630)

your right - landing on Mars was really easy, how silly of me to minimize the enormous complexity of putting a small robot somewhere that 12 men have walked on 41 years ago

Re:1000 days from start (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785748)

Man did it. This time, it is a fully automated system that has to do this. There is a HUGE difference. And Mars has been all about physics. Simple parachutes. Though MSL is about to be the first system that this is not true.

Re:1000 days from start (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#32786674)

'Simple Parachutes'

I don't think that word means what you think it means. From the Wikipedia article on the Rovers:

The 2003 parachute design was part of a long-term Mars parachute technology development effort and is based on the designs and experience of the Viking and Pathfinder missions. The parachute for this mission is 40% larger than Pathfinder's because the largest load for the Mars Exploration Rover is 80 to 85 kilonewtons (kN) or 18,000 to 19,000 lbf (85 kN) when the parachute fully inflates. By comparison, Pathfinder's inflation loads were approximately 35 kN (about 8,000 lbf). The parachute was designed and constructed in South Windsor, Connecticut by Pioneer Aerospace (website), the company that also designed the parachute for the Stardust mission.[27] [edit] Composition

The parachute is made of two durable, lightweight fabrics: polyester and nylon. A triple bridle made of Kevlar connects the parachute to the backshell.

The amount of space available on the spacecraft for the parachute is so small that the parachute had to be pressure packed. Before launch, a team tightly folded the 48 suspension lines, three bridle lines, and the parachute. The parachute team loaded the parachute in a special structure that then applied a heavy weight to the parachute package several times. Before placing the parachute into the backshell, the parachute was heat set to sterilize it.[27] [edit] Connected systems

Descent is halted by retrorockets and lander is dropped 10m (30 ft) to the surface in this computer generated impression

Zylon Bridles: After the parachute was deployed at an altitude of about 10 km (6 miles) above the surface, the heatshield was released using 6 separation nuts and push-off springs. The lander then separated from the backshell and "rappelled" down a metal tape on a centrifugal braking system built into one of the lander petals. The slow descent down the metal tape placed the lander in position at the end of another bridle (tether), made of a nearly 20 m (65 ft) long braided Zylon.[27]

Zylon is an advanced fiber material similar to Kevlar that is sewn in a webbing pattern (like shoelace material) to make it stronger. The Zylon bridle provides space for airbag deployment, distance from the solid rocket motor exhaust stream, and increased stability. The bridle incorporates an electrical harness that allows the firing of the solid rockets from the backshell as well as provides data from the backshell inertial measurement unit (which measures rate and tilt of the spacecraft) to the flight computer in the rover.[27]

This is not simple at all. It's complex, cutting edge technology.

rant

I get frustrated at times around here. Presumeably people on this site have some connection to technology, engineering and / or science that is more in depth than simply being able to turn on an iPhone. But there is a constant drumbeat of posters who essentially wave magic wands at significant technological challenges - be it carbon sequestration, fusion or antenna reception. Folks, this isn't TV. Things are often hard or impossible to do, especially given real world time and money constraints.

Otherwise we'd all be moving our unicorns around on our flying cars.

/rant

Re:1000 days from start (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#32788174)

Well, you are right. That was a rant. The fact is, that landing under power, vs. landing via parachutes are RADICALLY different in level of technology required. Now, parachutes have been around for over 5 centuries. We have loads of time to figure these out. That does not mean that the new ones did not require some interesting new tech.

OTH, the use of rockets to provide thrust from which to land has been around for about 50 years. Which idea is simpler? Parachutes. Which Idea has been around longer and had time to more fully develop? Parachutes, by 10 times.

I do not knock the landing on mars. I am simply stating a fact that landing on the moon is multitudes time more difficult than landing on mars.

Very Exciting Stuff (1)

SplicerNYC (1782242) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785718)

I can see engineers and scientists loving the challenge of this project and others to come. The human spirit is always in need of a challenge to bring out the best in everyone. I think this is a terrificly exciting thing they're doing.

" the fastest thing ? " (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32785920)

Maybe NASA is just trying to acomplish something before the economy tanks and the money runs out. If they hadn't wasted the last 30 - 40 years on the shuttle ( 115 odd launches total ) we'd be living on the moon now. They squandered our best chance to get off this planet.

Cool (1)

jrife0 (1836668) | more than 4 years ago | (#32785982)

Cool my physics teacher works for Armadillo Aerospace :D

It's not Obama's Vision... (3, Insightful)

NReitzel (77941) | more than 4 years ago | (#32787792)

With the mandated end of NASA's old, tired, bureaucratic programs, all the desk jockey administrators are out looking for a better free ride. Who knows, maybe they'll go to Wall Street.

In any event, NASA is being left with a bunch of frustrated old farts who were then, and are now, Engineers (capital "E" on purpose). When you turn Engineers loose, and don't saddle them with endless paperwork, they start thinking up things.

And sometimes these things are total disasters. That's the way engineering works.

And then, sometimes these ideas are completely and totally brilliant. "Hey, Joe, what if we take this soggy wheat, grind it up, and bake it into loaves?"

Never forget NASA's greatest disasters were predicated upon management overruling their own engineers. "Too cold to launch? Don't be Silly." "We had a meeting and decided that that big chunk of ice didn't cause any damage, so why should we ask the military to photograph it?"

If we fired 80% of NASA's management, we might have a Space Agency back. You know, people who do jaw dropping things, as opposed to people who print nice glossy viewgraphs of hypothetical jaw dropping things. Just consider, if the Russians hadn't launched the first ISS module, NASA would likely still have an Origami space station -- all paper and cleverness.

Re:It's not Obama's Vision... (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#32789828)

Although I'm sure that's a popular diagnosis, I think I prefer the complete lack of leadership thesis. Why is it so difficult to take some of the fantastic study work that is done at NASA and elsewhere and turn it into public policy? For example, why is it so hard to say that NASA needs to go further into space, beyond the Earth-Moon system and demonstrate that humanity has the technology to colonize the solar system? Why is it so hard for our political leadership to understand that punting on the return to the Moon isn't about the fact that humanity has "been there" and that trivial soundbites like that do more to hurt the debate than they do to help?

Re:It's not Obama's Vision... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32796306)

Never forget NASA's greatest disasters were predicated upon management overruling their own engineers.

Well, no, not exactly.
 

"Too cold to launch? Don't be Silly."

Actually - it went more like this: "Too cold to launch? Bad O-rings? You've been telling us for nearly a decade that the O-rings were safe. Why should we believe you now?" [Sound of crickets chirping while the engineers fade into the woodwork rather than try to explain the sudden change in their position.]
 

"We had a meeting and decided that that big chunk of ice didn't cause any damage, so why should we ask the military to photograph it?"

Actually - it went more like this: "You want photographs from the military? Provide us with an engineering rationale to do so." [Sound of crickets chirping while the engineers fade into the woodwork rather than try to explain the sudden change in their position.]
 

If we fired 80% of NASA's management, we might have a Space Agency back. You know, people who do jaw dropping things

Yeah, real jaw dropping things - like approving a method of emptying an oxygen tank without studying the operating parameters of the tank. That ended really well [wikipedia.org] .
 

And then, sometimes these ideas are completely and totally brilliant. "Hey, Joe, what if we take this soggy wheat, grind it up, and bake it into loaves?"

You end up with something roughly resembling a loaf shaped lump of concrete - back to the drawing board, eh?

Draper Labs? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 4 years ago | (#32788334)

I think it's pretty funny that they mention Draper Labs was "the lab responsible for creating the original Apollo Guidance Computer", and seem to think that is a positive thing.

Doesn't anybody remember that it failed ? The Eagle has to be set down by hand.

Re:Draper Labs? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 4 years ago | (#32788364)

"had to be" damned typos.

Re:Draper Labs? (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 4 years ago | (#32788550)

Who said it failed? That was a choice. It didn't have an extensive sensor net to detect obstacles, that's why it needed to be manually adjusted. Hard to beat a Mark 1 Eyeball. And even then, a fair fraction of it was working - attitude hold, altitude rate hold, etc, were all automatic functions.

Re:Draper Labs? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 4 years ago | (#32789952)

That's not entirely true. It DID fail. Sure, a "fair fraction" of its functions were still working, but as it turned out, it simply wasn't capable of performing all the functions it was assigned, under live circumstances, at the same time. It was literally INCAPABLE of doing so, because of inadequacies in its design... the kind of inadequacies that should have been found in testing and QA long before it was ever actually put into use.

The fact that the chosen spot was rocky was not the reason the decision to land manually was made... that was just the "straw that broke the camel's back". Both ground crew and lander crew could see that things weren't working properly. Among other things, there was genuine fear that their engines would cut off at several meters or more of altitude.

Sure, it was a choice to take manual control. But that's like saying it's a choice to slam on your brakes when you think you are about to drive over a cliff.

Re:Draper Labs? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 4 years ago | (#32789984)

To clarify what I mean: certainly, it did not cease functioning. But it could not do the job it was supposed to be designed to do. That is a FAIL.

Re:Draper Labs? (1)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 4 years ago | (#32790058)

It worked fine during the subsequent five Apollo missions, so whatever.

The robots can live on Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32788796)

All this planet are belong to us.

Give me a break! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32793758)

"Maybe NASA is taking Obama's new vision to heart."

Do you really believe that community organizer/Chicago corrupt politician knows/cares ANYTHING about technology?

Give me a break!

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