NASA & # 39; s free-flying robot assistants inspired by Star Wars droids pass first tests in space prior to ISS cleaning mission
- NASA & # 39; s & # 39; Astrobees & # 39; have their first hardware test on board the ISS this month
- The bots help astronauts to check equipment and keep inventory in space
- NASA says they will help astronauts with missions to the moon and deep space
- Astrobes compliment a growing number of robot applications in space
A recent hardware test from NASA's robotic assistant, & # 39; Astrobees & # 39 ;, takes a new wave of space-bound autonomous helpers a step closer to reality.
According to NASA, astronaut Anne McClain has conducted a hardware test this month with the robot & # 39; Bumble & # 39 ;, one of three robot assistants launched on April 15 to the international space station ISS.
Scientists hope that Bumble will perform a number of household tasks, such as equipment monitoring and inventory of supplies that NASA hopes will free its astronauts from performing other more crucial tasks related to their missions and experiments.
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Astrobes are just one of NASA's many robot applications, which also include the use of & # 39; soft & # 39; to study robotics that replace traditional hardware with malleable plastics
& # 39; Astrobee will prove robot capabilities that enable and improve human exploration & # 39 ;, said Maria Bualat, project manager of Astrobee at the Ames Research Center of NASA in a statement.
& # 39; Performing such experiments without gravity will ultimately help in the development of new hardware and software for future space missions. & # 39;
The bots, based on small robots that appear in & # 39; Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith & # 39;, can navigate their environment using a mix of electric fans that combine their propulsion and cameras with built-in software that helps you avoid obstacles.
With the help of a small robot arm, the cubes can even help you handle cargo or help with experiments.
Anne McClain performed the first hardware test of & # 39; Bumble & # 39 ;, part of three robots on board the ISS that can help astronauts with a number of tasks
When they are almost empty, the bots – unlike the Earth-based door assistant, Roomba – can see the way back to their charging station.
The Astrobees build on an earlier iteration of robot tools, called SPHERES – three first generation free-flying robot assistants deployed at ISS in 2006 to participate in various hardware and software experiments
In the future, NASA hopes that robots such as the Atrobees can help with planned missions to the moon, as well as travel to deep space.
While the desk works on more traditional-looking bots such as the Astrobee, it also takes a & # 39; softer & # 39; approach by developing robots made of malleable plastics that do not require rigid hardware.
According to NASA, the robots made using a liquid-filled mold could theoretically explore other planets by blowing up and deflating their plastic chambers, passing them along planet surfaces like a starfish.
WHAT IS THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE?
The International Space Station (ISS) is a $ 100 billion (£ 80 billion) science and engineering laboratory that spins a 400-kilometer radius above the Earth.
It has been permanently manned by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts since November 2000.
Research conducted on board the ISS often requires one or more of the unusual conditions in a low Earth orbit, such as low gravity or oxygen.
ISS studies have done research into people, space medicine, life sciences, natural sciences, astronomy and meteorology.
The US space agency NASA spends around $ 3 billion (£ 2.4 billion) a year on the space station program, a level of funding endorsed by the Trump administration and Congress.
A commission from the American House of Representatives overseeing NASA has begun to examine whether the program should be extended beyond 2024.
Alternatively, the money could be used to accelerate planned human space initiatives to the moon and Mars.
To increase their capacities, the agency is also investigating how soft robots can unite and work together.
Following a call from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a similar robot with NASA & # 39; s Astrobees can help future missions to repair and monitor satellites.
DARPA said it wanted engineers to help develop robotic repairers capable of repairing more than 400 satellites in the United States, some of which are more than 20,000 kilometers away, making service and maintenance virtually impossible.
The agency hopes to have developed these bots over the next five years.
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