Robots: Doing What We Can’t in Space
by Jim Keller
Today, the farthest humans can go into space is the International Space Station, two hundred and forty miles above the surface of Earth. Humans have never ventured farther than the Moon, roughly 230,000 miles from home.
Today, robotic explorers are crawling on the surface of another planet, chasing asteroids, and even voyaging out beyond the edge of our solar system over, 13 billion miles away. Why are robots doing all the cool, science-fiction stuff?
There are a lot of good reasons to use robots in space instead of humans. First of all, we’re kind of squishy. Robots can be built to withstand the deadly environments in space, anything from extreme heat to extreme cold, vacuum, high-radiation, and more, without getting killed. Robots can also be built with sensors we don’t have, like magnetometers, spectrometers, and the ability to see ultraviolet and infrared light. In short, robots are doing things we can’t.
Even if it’s something we hope humans will do eventually, it’s important to send robots first. NASA landed seven Surveyor robots on the Moon before… Continue reading in the Fall 2019 issue.