Robots - our helpers in space

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10 December 2004

Most science fiction films include robots that help their human owners. Today, real life is catching up with fiction.

Robots are ideal for use in space. They do not get tired or need to stop for lunch. They can survive in the hazardous conditions of space. “Intelligent” robots can even carry out difficult tasks without human intervention.

Nanokhod micro-rover

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Many different robots, designed in ESA’s space research and technical centre in the Netherlands, were on show at the ASTRA 2004 workshop.

The most familiar of these were the roving vehicles. They use wheels or caterpillar tracks to drive over the surface of another planet. The smallest was the 2 kg, book-sized Nanokhod micro-rover.

Aramies/Scorpion robot

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A larger version was the 12 kg MIRO-2 rover. It can carry a drill to collect soil samples from a depth of 2 m. Other robot designs were inspired by animals. For example, the eight-legged Aramies/Scorpion robot can crawl over very rocky or sandy terrain.

EUROBOT robot

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One day, a human-like EUROBOT will take the place of spacewalking astronauts. Using two arms and “hands”, it will be able to make repairs or replace experiments. The robot will be tele-operated by the crew from the safety of the space station cabin.

Exploration