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Teleoperated Modular Robots for Lunar OperationsSolar system exploration is currently carried out by special purpose robots exquisitely designed for the anticipated tasks. However, all contingencies for in situ resource utilization (ISRU), human habitat preparation, and exploration will be difficult to anticipate. Furthermore, developing the necessary special purpose mechanisms for deployment and other capabilities is difficult and error prone. For example, the Galileo high gain antenna never opened, severely restricting the quantity of data returned by the spacecraft. Also, deployment hardware is used only once. To address these problems, we are developing teleoperated modular robots for lunar missions, including operations in transit from Earth. Teleoperation of lunar systems from Earth involves a three second speed-of-light delay, but experiment suggests that interactive operations are feasible.' Modular robots typically consist of many identical modules that pass power and data between them and can be reconfigured for different tasks providing great flexibility, inherent redundancy and graceful degradation as modules fail. Our design features a number of different hub, link, and joint modules to simplify the individual modules, lower structure cost, and provide specialized capabilities. Modular robots are well suited for space applications because of their extreme flexibility, inherent redundancy, high-density packing, and opportunities for mass production. Simple structural modules can be manufactured from lunar regolith in situ using molds or directed solar sintering. Software to direct and control modular robots is difficult to develop. We have used genetic algorithms to evolve both the morphology and control system for walking modular robots3 We are currently using evolvable system technology to evolve controllers for modular robots in the ISS glove box. Development of lunar modular robots will require software and physical simulators, including regolith simulation, to enable design and test of robot software and hardware, particularly automation software. Ready access to these simulators could provide opportunities for contest-driven development ala RoboCup ( Licensing of module designs could provide opportunities in the toy market and for spin-off applications.
Document ID
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
Globus, Al (Computer Sciences Corp. Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Hornby, Greg (QSS Group, Inc. Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Larchev, Greg (QSS Group, Inc. Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Hancher, Matt (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Cannon, Howard (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Lohn, Jason (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
September 7, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2004
Subject Category
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Meeting Information
AIAA 1st Intelligent Systems Technical Conference(Chicago, IL)
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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