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Ten Years on Mars for NASA Rovers Spirit and Opportunity!

Ten years ago this month, NASA Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars for 90 day missions. Much to the surprise of everyone, Spirit’s mission lasted nearly seven years, and Opportunity is still operational and making scientific discoveries to this day!

NASA Mars Opportunity Rover Surveys Endurance Crater

NASA Mars Opportunity Rover Surveys Endurance Crater

On June 10th and July 7th 2003, Spirit and Opportunity each rode their Delta II rockets into space and started their seven month journey to mars!

A Delta II Rocket Launches NASA's Spirit Rover into Space!

A Delta II Rocket Launches NASA’s Spirit Rover into Space!

Continue reading “Ten Years on Mars for NASA Rovers Spirit and Opportunity!”

Love Space Exploration? Watch this Documentary!

PBS Nova has an awesome documentary about NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. I embeded it here but it is also available on Netflix and the PBS website.

Chapter 1:

Click more for Chapters 2-4

Continue reading “Love Space Exploration? Watch this Documentary!”

Chinese Lunar Rover Lands on Moon! Begins Exploration!

The Chinese lunar rover, Yutu (or, “Jade Rabbit” in English), has embarked from the Chang’e 3 spacecraft. The Chinese Chang’e 3 made a sucessful “soft landing” on Saturday (video and images below). The Chinese rover will be the first lunar rover to operate on the Moon in over 40 years. The last rover to operate on the Moon was the Soviet Lunokhod 2, in May of 1973. Will this ignite a new space race?

Chinese Moon Rover Yutu on Lunar Surface

Chinese Moon Rover Yutu on Lunar Surface

The Jade Rabbit will begin its mission to learn more about the composition of the lunar surface. The mission includes plans for the rover to drill 30 meters into the Moon’s surface! A return mission for the lunar samples is scheduled around the year 2020.

The solar-powered, radioisotope-heated Rover has six wheels, panoramic cameras, alpha and X-ray particle detection, two spectrometers, ground-penetrating radar, a robotic arm, and the ability to transmit video in real-time. It is slightly smaller than NASA’s Mars rovers, Spirit and Oppertunity, and weighs about 260lbs (120kg).

Chinese Lunar Rover Launch

Chinese Lunar Rover Launch

Below is a video of the rover separating from the Chang’e lander.

A video of the Chang’e 3 landing on the moon:

Google Aquires Boston Dynamics, Makers of “Big Dog” Robot

Google announced Friday (December 13th 2013) that it has completed the aquisition of Boston Dynamics, a robotics company well known for its Big Dog robot. Google has aquired at least seven other robotics companies over the last year, a clear sign of the company’s intent to become a leader within the industry.

Google buys Boston Dynamics, adds to its portfolio of robotics companies

Google adds Boston Dynamics to its growing list of robotics industry aquisitions.

Boston Dynamics robots we’ve featured include:
Petman
RHex
Big Dog

RoboSculpt creates clay molds with ease and precision

RoboSculpt, a robot created by Mathew Schwartz and Jason Prasad at the University of Michigan College of Achitecture, uses an industrial robot to sculpt clay molds. Using the robot to shape the molds allows for a custom design to be made more quickly and with less waste.

Watch the video below showing the RoboSculpt at work.

For more information, visit the RoboSculpt project site at: http://smart-art.org/portfolios/robosculpt-minimal-waste-manufacturing/

And, read their ROBOARCH 2012 conference publication at: http://www.smart-art.org/cadop/Robosculpt_Minimal_Waste_Manufacturing.pdf

Robots Swarm and Self Assemble

Swarm robots on the ground join forces with an aerial robot to communicate with each other and self assemble! Using blinking lights and cameras, the aerial robot tells the ground robots how they should self-assemble to conquer a given task or environmental challenge.

This video shows how the combination of aerial and ground robots work.

Acrobatic Quadracopter Balances Glass, Catches Balls!

This quadracopter is controlled by a Microsoft Kinect, and very advanced control algorithms, and can balance a glass of water and catch a ball while doing aerial acrobatics.

BigDog from Boston Dynamics Throws Cement Block!

We all remember the BigDog videos and other robots from Boston Dynamics

Now, check out this robot that can throw a giant cement block, all while balancing! Try doing that with a Roomba!

Amazing!

Beer Fetching Robots

This Roomba is not standard issue. User rmccallum1996 on Youtube has made a home made robot “beer buddy” out of a Roomba and a robotics kit.

A little more sophisticated approach to the beer dilemma is the PR2 by WillowGarage. The PR2 is programmed to fetch whichever beer the user wants, open the beer bottle with its robotic hand and a bottle opener, then release the beer to you once it recognizes your face!

Something like this robotic arm…

Along with a Roomba driver…

Would make a great platform!

Military’s Secret X-37B Robotic Space Shuttle Returns to Earth

The US Military’s secret unmanned mini space shuttle returned to earth on Friday.

Originally a NASA project, the X-37B became the military’s secret unmanned space shuttle in 2004. When the X-37B launched last April, no one knew what was really going on. Foreign media saw the launch as a signal of space militarization. Officials say the spacecraft is undergoing testing.

X-37B Unmanned Space Shuttle Lands

X-37B Unmanned Space Shuttle Lands

Here is a video of the launch on April 22, 2010:

With the spacecraft on the ground, what is next? Another X-37 will be completed and tested by 2011. However, these mini-shuttles cannot fill the void of NASA’s now vanishing shuttle program. The X-37B can only carry less than 1% of the payload the significantly larger Space Shuttles can, ruling out the military using this to do any heavy lifting in space.

X-37 before its launch, don't be fooled. It is only slight larger then a pick-up truck.

X-37 before its launch, don't be fooled. It is only slight larger then a pick-up truck.

It would be interesting to see this platform used a robotic rescue platform. Launch the X-37 with an advanced robot on-board, capable of repairing or upgrading defunct satellites, sending supplies to space stations, and other tasks a smaller ship might be good at.