Over the last few decades, the US space agency has sent wheeled robotic vehicles, known as rovers, to Mars. Now it appears that four-legged robots may eventually replace rovers in the coming years. This new development in robotics can help explore more difficult terrain that has previously been inaccessible to rovers, such as underground areas.
Robots explore Mars context
Currently, the US space agency is working on robots that mimic animals to send to Mars, called “Mars Dogs.” These robot dogs are quadrupeds (roughly the size and appearance of a large dog), and operated by a combination of artificial-intelligence (AI) and human direction.
These robot dogs are agile and resilient, and augmented with sensors that allow them to avoid obstacles, autonomously select between multiple paths, and build virtual maps of tunnels below the surface.
Compared to wheeled rovers of past Mars missions, such as Spirit and Opportunity, these dogs can navigate through Martian caves and regions that are only accessible by traversing difficult terrain.
The robot dogs can also explore Mars in less time. At present, they will be about 12 times lighter and move at a speed of 5km/h, vastly faster than the traditional rover, which only runs at 0.14km/h. As a result, the robots will speed up interplanetary research and open up opportunities for more scientific discoveries.
As robotic technology improves, more space exploration will rely on new kinds of robots, such as the aforementioned robotic canines. Robot dogs have been designed to explore deep lava tube caves on Mars, as well as searching for evidence of past or existing life and potential sites for future human colonies. Over time, engineers may eventually design robots that can explore the subglacial and underwater lakes on Mars, as well.
With rapid technology advancement and concerns about living conditions on Earth rising, Mars exploration is the first step to space colonization. In the future, space colonization may advance economic interests and create long-term scientific research opportunities.
Questions to comment on
- How can robots’ mobility in the exploration of Mars improve technology and innovation on Earth?
- What technological advancements should organizations develop to enable humans to explore other planets for a more extended period?
- How can the advances in technology for Martian robots be used in terrestrial robotic applications?