Maybe it was related to the first succcessful free flight of NASA’s Morpheus lander or the launch of China’s Chang’e 3 lunar probe. For whatever reason, there seems to be a pre-Christmas rush on planetary press conferences and announcements. In the last six days, three separate projects have revealed details of their plans for robotic missions to the Moon and Mars.

Moon Express

Last Thursday, Moon Express unveiled its MX-1 lunar-lander design in front of 10,000 people at the closing session of Autodesk University in Las Vegas.

Moon Express MX-1 lunar lander

Moon Express, which is competing for the Google Lunar X-Prize, said the lander will use hydrogen peroxide and kerosene as propellents. Hydrogen peroxide can also be used, by itself, as a monopropellent. Moon Express noted that hydrogen peroxide can be manufactured from water that is available on the Moon, which it believes “would be a game changer in the economics of lunar resources and solar system exploration.”

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Written by Astro1 on December 10th, 2013 , Commercial Space (General), Innovation, Lunar Science, Robotics

NASA robonaut (R2) robot for International Space Station (ISS)

NASA and TopCoder have teamed up to create the Robonaut Challenge. The competition, which runs until 9:00 am EDT on April 22, challenges programmers to train NASA’s Robonaut android to interact with input devices used by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

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Written by Astro1 on April 9th, 2013 , Robotics

Small, low-cost robots are an important technology for future planetary-science missions. At some destinations, such as Titan, imprecise terrain knowledge and unstable weather cycles make single-robot landings problematic. Teams of robots, landing at multiple locations, would provide redundancy and allow rapid planetary reconnaissance.

Landing large numbers of small robots at multiple locations is difficult with conventional technology. Current robot designs require devices such as parachutes, retrorockets, and airbags to cushion impact and maintain the robot in proper orientation. These devices do not scale down well. NASA envisions teams of dozens (or even hundreds) of small robots, weighing only a few pounds each. Landing these robots will require new technology.

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Written by Astro1 on September 8th, 2012 , Innovation, Robotics

Robert Cong, product marketing manager at Jameco Electronics, has posted an article on using nitinol muscle wire for motor-less mechanical motion.

Nitonol, a nickel-titanium alloy, is sometimes called memory metal. It’s been around since the 1960’s. In the 1973, an engineer at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory used nitinol to build the world’s first solid-state heat engine.

Nitinol has some interesting possible applications robotics, low-cost space probes, and nanosatellite deployment mechanisms. We would like to see citizen scientists explore some of those possibilities.

More information on nitinol is available at Nitinol University.



Written by Astro1 on April 10th, 2012 , Innovation, Nanosatellites, Robotics