35 votes

Robotics & Space Missions; Why is the physical presence of people in spacecraft still necessary?

Between them, Spirit and Opportunity spent the equivalent of 22 years performing geology fieldwork on Mars. In that time, they managed a scientific output comparable to what a single geology grad ...
  • 11.8k
32 votes

Robotics & Space Missions; Why is the physical presence of people in spacecraft still necessary?

One of the most important reasons is that robots don't make great interview partners. A significant part of space missions is outreach and inspiring people. Another important part is giving people a ...
32 votes

Why aren't there any robotic missions on Europa or Enceladus?

There are probably many answers, but for guesstimating hypothetical missions a look at delta-V/subway maps like this are highly informative in terms of problem scale. Working from that getting into ...
23 votes
Accepted

Why aren't there any robotic missions on Europa or Enceladus?

@GremlinWrangler's answer sums up several important points; Getting a low mass rover from Earth all the way to landing on the surface of one of those Moons requires much much more rocketry (delta-v) ...
  • 148k
22 votes
Accepted

Why do Ingenuity's legs differ?

I asked one of the copter's engineers, Matt Keennon, what the hole in that one leg's foot was for. He replied that it's only for stowage. ... because of the odd way the copter is held in place under ...
21 votes
Accepted

How much can the Mars rover Curiosity do autonomously, after four years of operation?

AutoNav is simply given a set of waypoints, which the software then has to, on its own, plan and execute a route. You can imagine the waypoints as lawn darts on the 3D terrain map built from the ...
  • 57.9k
16 votes
Accepted

The types of motors used on the Martian rovers?

MER uses brushed motors, Curiosity brushless. They both have a gear box on each motor with a fixed, very high gear ratio (a few thousand) for low speed and very high torque. The current to each motor ...
  • 57.9k
13 votes
Accepted

Why would humans travel to Mars before machines have built a colony?

One reason is that we don't have robots as versatile as humans. We have machines capable of high speed, high precision, reliability and endurance not possible for a human, but no robot is good enough ...
  • 52.9k
13 votes

Mining Helium-3 on the Moon and sending it to Earth?

On Earth, before a mineral or petroleum resource is mined/extracted, the deposit is delineated and evaluated. Briefly, the process involves sending a some geologists and some drill rigs and their ...
  • 11.2k
12 votes
Accepted

What could the X-37 be useful for?

In November 2010, Secure World Foundation (SWF) published their X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Fact Sheet (PDF) that is a conjecture on the purpose of the two Boeing built X-37B OTV (Orbital Test Vehicles)...
  • 75.7k
10 votes

How much can the Mars rover Curiosity do autonomously, after four years of operation?

Not only has it autonomous driving capability, just very recently in 2016 it acquired new features for 'autonomously' targeting ChemCam and autonomosly re-schedule some of the science observations by ...
  • 1,310
10 votes

What's salvageable from a dead satellite?

It really depends on what stage the satellite is in. If the satellite still functions at a reduced capacity, then likely everything except the batteries, and fuel, is salvageable. Some of the ...
  • 119k
10 votes
Accepted

Harpooning satellites? Is this really the best way to get them under control?

This answer responds to the title question "Harpooning satellites? Is this really the best way to get them under control?". I've studied this problem, the answer is "no", based on this rationale: ...
  • 8,968
8 votes

How realistic are robot races on the moon this decade (circa 2015)?

If you mean within the next 10 years, with 2015 as a starting date, then it is not outside the realm of possibility. The advent of cheaper launches does appear to be upon us. SpaceX is very close to ...
  • 76.9k
8 votes
Accepted

What are robot arm singularities in the context of the Space Shuttle and/or ISS?

A singularity in this context is simply a configuration of the manipulator system in which a degree of freedom is lost. For example, for the Shuttle and ISS arms, the elbow singularity occurs when ...
8 votes

Why aren't there any robotic missions on Europa or Enceladus?

The motive for the exploration of Enceladus and Europa is different from that of Mars. The primary motive for exploration of the two moons is the possibility of finding an independent instance of ...
  • 2,571
7 votes

Harpooning satellites? Is this really the best way to get them under control?

The RemoveDebris mission is a low-cost, small mission to demonstrate 4 key technologies needed for removal of large space debris (i.e. defunct satellites). Surely large modern spacecraft have ...
  • 122k
7 votes

Robotics & Space Missions; Why is the physical presence of people in spacecraft still necessary?

Why is the physical presence of people in spacecraft still necessary? Because robotics and AI aren't so developed as to totally replace humans (who are very versatile). Having said that, there are ...
  • 911
6 votes

What's salvageable from a dead satellite?

A few things I come to think of: Heat radiators for cooling a power source. Physical structure needed in-space but not during launch. Maybe for example such needed to spin a spacecraft for simulated ...
  • 26.5k
6 votes
Accepted

Advances in AI and Avionics needed for deep space exploration?

As far as autonomous control is concerned, much of this has already been developed. It had to be given the long time delays between Earth and even "nearby" destinations such as Mars. The Mars rovers, ...
  • 839
6 votes

Could an ARM Option B type of mission be used to deflect a hazardous asteroid?

ARM Option B hardware could be useful in deflecting an asteroid, but probably not by the methods you propose or the current Option B mission profile. First of all: Picking up 50 ton boulders is going ...
  • 7,089
6 votes
Accepted

Besides HST, JWST and stations, are there any examples of satellites designed for service in space?

A family of spacecraft in the 1980s were designed around the Multi-mission Modular Spacecraft (MMS) bus. This bus was designed specifically to allow for retrieval and repair of the spacecraft by the ...
6 votes

Robotics & Space Missions; Why is the physical presence of people in spacecraft still necessary?

Necessity Why is anything "necessary"? Who gets to define that? The biological imperative, if you will, is to survive, reproduce, and exploit every niche. Look all over the planet, and ...
5 votes

Is Landsat-7's propellant resupply port "robot-ready"? (Restore-L mission)

My reading of the Aviation Week article on this seemed to suggest that while Landsat-7 was not designed to be refueled, when they looked at its design, they found a fuel line, they could patch into ...
  • 76.9k
5 votes

Why not leave interplanetary probes on standby after primary mission, activating them at will decades later?

It has been attempted, but is very difficult. The ISEE-3 mission was put into a hibernation mode where it made a close Earth approach last year. When that close approach happened, it was determined ...
  • 119k
5 votes

How much do we know about minerals and raw materials that are in our solar system?

YES and NO The Yes part Many meteors have been traced back to their parent bodies. We have done very detailed analysis of both mineral and elemental composition. By comparing the spectrum of the ...
  • 229
5 votes
Accepted

How do the Mars rovers sleep through the night on Mars?

For the MER rovers: Normal sleep is commanded by the operations team, usually as a sequence (do science operations X, Y and Z, then go to sleep). More details below. The rovers can decide ...
  • 122k
5 votes

What propulsion system would not pollute the surface when landing on a pristine celestial body?

Any spacecraft that uses reaction mass for propulsion (pretty much everything that isn't theoretical) is going to somewhat contaminate the landing area. If you're using an inert fuel such as Helium or ...
  • 2,245
5 votes
Accepted

What have been the most common causes of mishaps or failures with various cubesat mechanisms & components?

This graph shows the common failure modes experienced during the first 100 cubesat missions. Note the large fraction of failed missions that never made contact with the ground after launch; no ...
5 votes

Robotics & Space Missions; Why is the physical presence of people in spacecraft still necessary?

Why is the physical presence of people in spacecraft still necessary? The physical presence of people on most spacecraft is not necessary, not even those rated to carry passengers. Having humans ...

Only top scored, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible