Why is Mechatronics and Optics important?
Planetary rovers and robot arm systems are the highest profile applications of robotics in space. Mobile robots designed to explore celestial bodies on or under their surfaces are on the front line of space exploration while robot arms can perform challenging inspection and servicing duties previously undertaken by human spacewalkers.
Just as important in terms of scientific return are the kind of sophisticated experiment payloads hosted on ESA's Columbus module – such as furnaces, crystal growth and fluid science facilities for the physical sciences. On the life science side, the equipment developed includes cultivation and handling devices, contamination control (including microbian) and precision cleaning as well as microsensors for analysis and diagnosis.
The design and verification of optical systems is another core activity, ranging from full-sized telescopes to fibre optics and laser communications plus lidar atmosphere-sampling sensors and interferometers that extract useful information by combining together light. This work extends into advanced opto-electronic systems such as superconducting magnetic field detection devices, advanced EM detectors operating across a broad spectral range from X-rays and gamma rays into the infrared, as well as application of most advanced quantum theories for secure communications.
Not to be forgotten, the preparation of advanced recycling regenerative life support system needed for long term journey and stay on the Moon or Mars, including all air / water / food reclaim aspects and the related safety issues.
Last update: 30 September 2009