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The NASA Village

The NASA Village


Today in the NASA Village… That’s my
Ride: Robots and Rovers.


cars could very likely resemble the rovers currently in NASA’s parking lot. The
newest rovers have gotten rid of the more traditional ideas and come up with
some pretty amazing machinery.  Amy Fritz
is a mechanical engineer that works with these rovers.  When I asked Amy how she found herself in
such a cool job she said, “My parents were very big influences on my career
choices. I can remember when I was a little girl and my dad and I would build
Legos together, or we would take the remote apart to see how it worked.  That really inspired me to want to pursue a
career in engineering.  I then later
developed an affinity for cars so, of course, the only rational thing to do was
to go after a degree in mechanical engineering.”


The wheels of this rover move independent of each other, regardless of
which direction the vehicle points.  To
parallel park one would just pull up to the spot and turn the wheels to scoot
in.  I am not sure how much parallel
parking is required on other planets, but it could help us move very close to
an object for observation out the “front” of the vehicle, while
moving laterally.


The bubble in the front of the
glass is actually a magnifying glass so astronauts can better see the minerals
on other planets without having to leave the rover!


These rovers also allow one to
change drivers, without anyone having to change seats!


Here is a video of the Modular Robotic Vehicle (MRV) in action.

Rovers have been used on the
surface of the moon in the past. Check out the Apollo 16 rover as astronauts
John Young and Charlie Duke take a spin.

The rovers can also be hybrids of
rovers and humanoid robots.  For
instance, the robot could serve as a scout, providing advanced maps and soil
samples, and beginning work on the infrastructure that astronauts would need.  The crew that follows would then be much more
prepared for the exploration ahead.  Amy
describes her working life as very…interesting.  “One minute you’re working on a design, sitting
at your desk and the next minute you’re being called into the high bay to
replace a suspension arm on one of the rovers.”


The first Robonaut began in 1997.  The goal was to build a humanoid robot that
could assist us with tasks where it might be useful to have another pair of
hands.  This type of robot could also
perform jobs that where it was too dangerous to risk human life or even too
time-consuming and mundane.

Robonaut was revealed in 2010 as the most advanced humanoid
robot of its time.  It made its way to
the International Space Station on-board the space shuttle Discovery. It was
the first humanoid-robot in space and it rode on the final shuttle
mission.  This technology is still
developing today.

Meet the future of Robonaut on station:

This technology could someday service communications, weather
and reconnaissance satellites, which have direct benefits on Earth.  The next step for robotic capabilities is to
explore near-Earth objects, including asteroids and comets, and eventually
Mars. Something Amy mentioned that I found interesting was her greatest hurdle
was asking for help.  “I know that might
sound silly, but I’m used to always being independent and trying to figure
things out for myself.“  This is one
of the things I have discovered about myself too.  The kind of drive that Amy has is special,
that desire to figure things out for yourself.
But, remember, having the humility to ask questions and ask for help can
lead you even further!

Next time on the
NASA Village… The Lady in Charge.

Do you want more
stories?  Find our NASA Villagers 

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