Space discovery has gone to the dogs; not the human ones, the robotic ones. NASA scientists have an unusual proposal to discover the planet of Mars: to submit a four-legged robot puppy. NASA scientists have come up with a very out-of-the-box proposal to bring a robot dog to Mars. These Mars Dogs will work almost in the same manner as the Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance rovers, but they will be able to do much more.
Specifically, researchers proposed that an updated version of the Boston Dynamics Dog-like Spot Robot would make a perfect alternative to the classic Mars Rover, Live Science notes. The theory is that they are best suited to cover long distances and rugged terrain—and may also help map out potential positions for the sort of human outpost NASA plans to potentially build on the Red Planet.
NASA scientists are working on “Mars Dogs,” which are robot dogs set to autonomously navigate the Red Planet’s rough terrain and underground caves. This modified Boston Dynamics dog robot would comprise artificial intelligence (AI) and a range of sensing equipment to help the robot dogs navigate the tricky terrain that’s inaccessible to a wheeled rover and cover long distances.
Robot dogs that NASA is now claimed to be targeting to launch in lieu of these rovers may not have these problems. These animal-mimicking robots are powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and are fitted with a variety of sensors. If they’re put to work, they can maneuver their way through terrains that can’t be covered by a rover.
According to an article by LiveScience, researchers with NASA’s JPL-Caltech proposed their concept of “Mars Dogs” at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) held online on 14 December. The concept, as above, was to have unparalleled maneuvering capability on the next missions to the Red Planet.
Scientists are also testing the concept of equipping a Spot robot with modern equipment that might help it explore and plot its environment, according to Live Science’s story. The robot robodog, called Au-Spot, will be able to navigate the ground that is inaccessible to a wheeled rover and do it even quicker, as well as hiking through obstacles and standing up when it tips over.
To this end, the researchers are focusing on “Au-Spot,” an autonomous canine that will visit Mars. The robot is a revamped version of “Spot,” a related explorer robot developed by the renowned robotics company Boston Dynamics, which was unveiled last year on social media.
“Toppling does not mean mission failure,” the NASA scientists said while presenting the idea at Monday’s annual American Geophysical Union meeting, according to Live Science‘s reporting. “Using recovery algorithms, the robot can self-right from a multitude of falls.”
Part of Au-goal Spot’s will be to discover and create maps of Martian caves and tunnels, according to Live Science, in search of ideal areas for human outposts. Right now, there’s a test drive in the hallways and tunnels that resemble Martian territory in California.
Au-Spot can input data from Lidar, Optical, Thermal, and Motion Sensors and can use it to create 3D maps on the Martian surface. In addition, the built-in AI helps you to learn which constructs you can stop when exploring. Using this AI, objects of scientific interest may be marked. The Mars Dog is also able to relay information from underwater exploration using a contact module.
“These behaviors could one day make it possible for revolutionary scientific missions to take place on the Martian surface and subsurface, thus pushing the limits of NASA’s ability to explore traditionally inaccessible sites,” the scientists said.
Au-Spot is currently being studied in a number of obstacle courses that imitate Martian environments. Once its capabilities are deemed to be at the same level as what is expected on Mars, a robot dog could make a transformative leap in the human ability to explore other planets.