Robots play a vital role in both the exploration and study of space. Agencies such as NASA send out probes and rovers to explore the planets and gather information about our solar system. These probes and rovers are sent out on missions without the assistance of astronauts to conduct scientific research on and to explore the planets, comets, moons, and asteroids to which they are sent.

        Specifically, there are many different kinds of probes. Some, such as Pioneer 10, fly past planets and comets and take pictures, without ever returning to the galaxy. On the other hand, some probes land on planets and deploy robotic rovers to collect scientific data to be sent back to the Earth for study. These types of probes can study the minerals and atmospheres of the planets they land on, and give scientists insights into the molecular make up of planets that humans have never visited. An example of this was when NASA launched the rovers Spirit and Opportunity in 2003. These rovers were sent to different parts of Mars to search for water and signs of life, and searched up until January of 2009. There are even some space probes that go into orbit around other planets for years, such as the Hubble Space Telescope. The Hubble telescope has and continues to take immense amounts of pictures of the far reaches of our galaxy, which has given us a greater understanding of space than ever before.

            In the end, all of these probes share the fact that they are unmanned robots, and the benefit from the scientific experiments they have conducted and the scientific data that they have gathered is incalculable. Though robotics already plays such a significant role in current space missions, robots have the potential to help space missions even more.   

        Even though space missions promote endless innovation and discovery, they also promote something else, isolation. Thousands of miles away from family and friends, and with only cold metal walls protecting them from the vast vacuums of space, as NASA studies show, isolation and depression often find their way into the astronauts mind. As a result, crew health, morale and performance suffers, and the mission’s success could be at serious risk.

        Nevertheless, robotics could prove to be the antidote of this insidious condition. Advances in the robotics field are creating new autonomous robots that are able to communicate and converse with humans with ever-increasing ease. Robots such as MIT’s Kismet, which comes equipped with blinking eyes and functioning facial expressions, are coming to not only mirror human actions, but to actually respond logically to them. Following technology’s blazing growth, it is only a matter of time before conversations with these robots will be as natural as conversation with any average human.

        How will this affect space missions you ask? Well, in the future, such social robots could prove to become the astronaut’s best friend when they are in orbit. Able to have a friend, albeit a robotic one, with them every step of the way, isolation’s hold on astronauts would be severed, and not only would crew moral improve, but so would the crew’s health, and finally, the crew’s ability to complete their mission safely and effectively.

        Robots can do more than provide companionship to aid the astronauts; they can take on the role of a nurse or caretaker—someone to provide the astronauts with medical care as well as perform useful tasks for the maintenance of the shuttle. If an unfortunate event were to occur in space, where the crew is in dire need to supplies, the robot could make trips to and from earth more quickly and safely than a human. By reducing the amount of times a crew must travel to space and back, lives will be saved.

        Robots could become doctors in space by performing surgeries guided by doctors on earth, or remote surgery. While in space, many astronauts have a skewed sleeping schedule, because there are no signs of night or day. In fact, the average astronaut sleeps only five consecutive hours a day. This lack of sleep leads to errors made by the fatigued astronauts. Robots could provide for an environment in which the astronaut is able to receive a good night’s sleep which will keep them more alert when they are awake. Another medical problem in space is that microgravity poses as a threat to our bodies. It deconditions our muscles, which causes a 20% strength loss in the legs and a 10% weight loss in the muscles. A robot could be of great assistance in helping the astronaut exercise properly.

        This would be a great influence not only on future missions to the moon, but missions to Mars, where there is less gravity, and the environment is harsher on the astronaut’s health. If medical services were to be provided to astronauts in such a manner, they will be able to explore the greater depths of space.


Robot Companions:  A Video Essay Manuscript

Moonbots 2.0 Challenge Team 364

Disclaimer: All media used in the video essay was taken from the public domain. No copyright infringement intended.

It looks like the CEO of an important space organization is in a bit of trouble. Maybe Raider Robotix can help him!

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