What would it take to put a walking robot on the moon?
来源：未知 作者：冒寮椅 时间：2018-02-17 04:01:10
By Wendy Zukerman See also: NASA’s android astronaut assistant prepares for launch A humanoid robot could be walking on the moon – and drawing the Japanese flag on its surface – by 2015, according to a plan proposed by a group of Japanese companies. Experts say wheeled or many-legged robots would be easier to operate on the moon’s uneven terrain, but backers of the proposal say a two-legged android would make a bigger splash in the public imagination. The plan was announced last week by a small cooperative of companies in Osaka called Astro-Technology SOHLA, which launched a small satellite called Maido-1 to study lightning in January 2009. The group hopes that its robot, dubbed Maido-kun, could hitch a ride to the moon with a robotic mission set to be launched by the Japanese space agency JAXA in about five years, according to the Daily Yomiuri newspaper. The newspaper said that JAXA had previously opted against sending a bipedal robot to the moon because its footing would not be steady on the sandy lunar surface. But SOHLA president Hideo Sugimoto countered that a walking robot would be more inspiring than a wheeled rover, adding that Maido-kun would draw the Japanese flag on the moon’s surface. “We decided on a human-like robot because it’s more fascinating and stimulating for us,” Sugimoto said, according to the Daily Yomiuri. “We’ll make an attractive robot to carry our dreams to the universe.” The project, estimated to cost about $10 million to develop, will not be a walk in the park. Designing a robot that can balance and move on two legs will be a major challenge, says Roger La-Brooy of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. “Human beings are relatively unstable, and when designing robots for unpredictable terrain, three legs are better than two.” If the robot were to fall over, it could have trouble getting up again, says Rodney Brooks, a roboticist at MIT. Human-sized robots have been designed to pick themselves up on Earth, but “this has not been demonstrated robustly”, he told New Scientist. On the other hand, the moon’s gravity is only one-sixth as strong as Earth’s, so “things might be easier there”, he says. To stay upright, the robot would have to accurately detect and respond to unexpected changes in the terrain – something humans do instantaneously. Because communication signals take a few seconds to travel between Earth and the moon, there is a real danger that the robot could fall over and break if it had to wait for commands from ground controllers on Earth, says Alex Zelinsky, a robotics and sensor researcher at Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO. “It’ll have to be fairly autonomous,” he told New Scientist. Mary-Anne Williams, a robotics designer at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, says the mission concept is “pretty cool”, but says a more stable, four-legged design could also grab the public’s attention. “If I were [doing it], I’m building a robotic dog to go up there.” Motoko Kakubayashi of the Science Media Centre of Japan assisted with translations for this article More on these topics: