Wondering, what is the best way to explore space? Could we still go on with the project even after the rover is damaged? Which material will be best for the space vehicles?
The damages caused to the space vehicle are the major problem of space research. The mission becomes unsuccessful in a second after a rover hits a meteor. Every effort and a huge amount of monetary funds goes in vain. The only reason is that we cannot repair the damages caused to the space vehicle.
Can’t we develop a robot that repairs itself and work as a space vehicle? But how can a robot repair itself without the raw materials? Wait but they can repair themselves with the material present in outer space. For that, they should be built with that material itself. And what is that material?
The Ice Robot
Devin Carroll and Mark Yim presented a paper at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS). Carroll is a Ph.D. robotics student at the University of Pennsylvania. Yim is the Director of the Grasp Lab and a professor of mechanical engineering at UPenn. Devin explained the concept of self-repair in Ice robots in an interview. He explained it as a wooden robot damaged while exploring a forest. Then the robot could find a part that can be fit for damage and replace the damaged part. Similarly, the ice robot can be used in places where there is plenty of ice.
The primary goal was to find the material that can be used to build a robot that can operate in remote and hostile environments. The secondary goal was to reduce the cost of the making. Many organizations are interested in exploring stars and frosty planets. Ice can be easily found there which will help the ice-bots to repair themselves. Climate researchers are also much interested in the Antarctic and ice sheets. These ice-bots can be used in such regions as well. Another advantage of ice-bots is their cost-efficiency. Apart from this, ice can also be advantageous in the flexibility it provides in designing the robot.
There were many methods in front of the duo for the manufacturing of robots. Molding, 3-D printing, CNC machinery was some of the methods they tried to create the ice robot. Interestingly! The simplest method was the most effective one. They found that drilling the ice and shaping it into the required shape was the best method. Imagine making glass bottles, that’s exactly how they made the ice robots. This method turned out to be the cheapest and the most effective one. Now, there might be a question in your mind, doesn’t this ice melt? The answer is the of course not. These robots will be operating in an environment where the temperature is cold enough that the ice will remain stable. Even the heat generated by the machinery won’t be able to meltdown itself.
This marvelous idea will now solve a major problem that resulted in mission failure. This robot will use its “self-recognition” power to examine the damages caused to itself. Then the “self-repair” function will help to use the ice from its surroundings to heal itself. And that’s how the mission goes on
All images belong to their respective owners.