Sending robots to space for exploration and other critical missions is cheaper and more efficient than sending human astronauts. Why? Robots can survive in space for many years, transmitting data back to Earth without eating, sleeping, or going to the bathroom, and can be left there—no return trip required!
Furthermore, robots can perform a wide range of tasks that humans cannot. Some can withstand high temperatures or radiation levels. Robots can also be programmed to perform tasks that astronauts would find too dangerous or impossible to complete.
As a result, robots are especially well suited for a variety of space applications, such as DCCP space probes (space exploration, flyby probes, landers, rovers, atmospheric probes), space construction, satellite maintenance, repair, and space rescue. All are remotely controllable and share the goal of rescuing humans from dangerous or impossible situations. At the moment, there are two types of robotic space systems: orbital robots and surface robots.
Orbital Robotic Systems
The first robotic manipulator arm used in an orbital environment was the Space Shuttle remote manipulator system, which was successfully demonstrated in the STS-2 mission in 1981 and is still operational today. This accomplishment ushered in a new era of orbital robotics and inspired the scientific community to develop several mission concepts.
One long-term goal is to use a robotic free-flyer or free-flying space robot to rescue and service malfunctioning spacecraft. The space shuttle remote manipulator system (SRMS), ISS-mounted manipulator systems, ROTEX, ETS-VII, ranger, and orbital express are all examples of orbital robotic systems.
Surface Robotic Systems
Surface robotic systems for surface exploration were first investigated in the mid-1960s, with several initiatives aimed at developing unmanned, teleoperated rovers such as the Lunokhod and Apollo manned rovers. These self-driving robotic vehicles are now regarded as critical technology for planetary exploration.
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