Beyond Earth:
The Evolution of Space Robots

The pursuit of space travel is one of mankind's most ambitious objectives, given the vastness of the universe. Currently, space robots work on the International Space Station. Despite being expensive to make, robots are cheaper than humans to deploy into space. These robots can do different tasks that aid astronauts and the science industry, such as:

  • collecting samples
  • taking measurements to help astronauts
  • fix or assemble equipment
  • and even explore other planets to provide scientists with data

Looking ahead, we see that space robots represent a technological frontier with revolutionary possibilities. These technological wonders, propelled by recent developments in AI and robotics, have the potential to alter the way humans explore space. 


Evolution and Innovation of Space Robots

The use of space robots has played a significant role in advancing scientific pursuits since the commencement of space exploration. Since their inception, these robots have undergone a methodical evolution, showcasing their ability to adapt to overcome the challenges presented by alien conditions. 

Sputnik 1, the Space Race, and more Space Robot Developments

The initial robot to be dispatched to space was Sputnik 1. The USSR launched it on October 4, 1957. And with it, Sputnik 1 holds the distinction of being the inaugural artificial Earth satellite and the foremost human-made entity to successfully achieve orbit around our planet.

After this advancement, the Soviet Union and the US started launching voyagers. Luna 17 is one of these developments, as it was launched from Earth and entered the lunar orbit on the 15th of November 1970. This voyager also landed the first remote-controlled robot rover, the Lunokhod 1 rover, on the moon.

Years later, the Soviet Union’s Venera, a series of robotic probes, was launched. These four Soviet Venera probes took the only Venus photos in 1975 and 1982. The Veneras scanned the surface back and forth to produce panoramic photographs.

Explore the Robotic Advancements for Space at SPEXA

April 24 (Wed.)–26 (Fri.), 2024 | Tokyo Big Sight, Japan 

The Mars Exploration Robots

NASA began one of its first significant robotic Mars missions in the 1970s. NASA landed Viking 1 and 2 on Mars in 1976. Although they couldn't move, the two landers collected data that NASA used to plan for their 1997 rover mission.

The robotic geologists Spirit and Opportunity landed on the opposite side of Mars in January 2004. These robots have traveled kilometers across Mars to undertake field geology and atmospheric measurements, outpacing the 1997 Mars Pathfinder rover.

Other than the two robots sent to Mars, Perseverance and Curiosity are the next rovers launched to explore and discover Mars’ microbial conditions.

The New Generation of Space Robots

NASA is continuing its efforts to develop more robots that can be sent to outer space. A-PUFFER, or the Autonomous Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot, is one of these advancements. It was created to explore the moon and investigate its hard-to-reach landscapes.

JPL is also developing BRUIE, the Buoyant Rover for Under-Ice Exploration, for underwater exploration on Earth and in other planets' frozen oceans. The long-term objective is to deploy BRUIE autonomously in an alien ocean to look for life at the ice-shell-ocean boundary.

Hedgehogs, or a kind of rover hybrid, are also being developed, as they will allow the exploration of smaller solar system bodies like asteroids and Martian moons. After deployment, they would hop large distances and fall to take in-situ scientific observations. To help the rovers localize and navigate, the mother spaceship would broadcast signals to Earth.

NASA is also developing humanoid robots. The Johnson Space Center (JSC) Engineering Directorate designed and built NASA's R5 (Valkyrie) for the 2013 DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Trials. Valkyrie, a Norse mythology-inspired electric humanoid robot, can operate in degraded human-engineered surroundings.

Space Robots: Advancing the Next Era of Space Exploration

In summary, the development of space robots has played a significant role in advancing research beyond the confines of Earth, having a lasting impact on the field of cosmic investigation. From the early explorations of outer space to the present period characterized by advanced and versatile machines, mechanical innovators have played a crucial role in enhancing humanity's comprehension of the cosmos.

Within the confines of the outer space investigation, there has been a glimpse of the progression of space robots. The ongoing development of these robotic entities is positioned to influence the forthcoming phase of humanity's exploration of space.

SPEXA: Charting the Course for the Future of Cosmic Exploration

As we anticipate the next strides in cosmic exploration, SPEXA is at the forefront of the progress and collaboration necessary to make the next steps in universe exploration a reality. 

April 24 (Wed.)–26 (Fri.), 2024 | Tokyo Big Sight, Japan