Incredibly strong robotic dogs prepare for a mission to the Moon

In the shadow of Oregon’s majestic Mount Hood, a team of researchers from a consortium of universities and NASA’s Johnson Space Center embarked on a groundbreaking project. Their mission? Prepare a dog-like robot named Spirit for the arduous task of navigating the unpredictable terrain of the moon.

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Spirit robot (LASSIE Project) (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

Spirit’s Rigorous Training Regime

During a rigorous five-day testing period during the summer of 2023, Spirit faced numerous challenges. The quadruped robot, equipped with spindly metal legs, traversed shifting earth, mushy snow and rocky obstacles.

“A legged robot must be able to sense what is happening when it interacts with the ground and quickly adjust its locomotion strategies accordingly,” says Feifei Qian, project leader at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

Incredibly strong robotic dogs prepare for a rescue mission to the Moon

Spirit robot (LASSIE Project) (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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The LASSIE project: A big step towards planetary exploration

Spirit’s testing is part of the Legged Autonomous Surface Science in Analog Environments (LASSIE) project, a multidisciplinary effort that includes engineers, cognitive scientists, geoscientists and planetary scientists. The team’s goal is to understand the characteristics of different substrates and improve the robot’s ability to walk on these difficult surfaces.

Incredibly strong robotic dogs prepare for a rescue mission to the Moon

Spirit robot (LASSIE Project) (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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From the Earth to the Moon: preparing for the unknown

Images captured at Mount Hood offer a glimpse of surreal environments that closely resemble other planets. These earthly trials provide the Spirit with valuable learning experiences, preparing it for future explorations beyond our world.

Incredibly strong robotic dogs prepare for a rescue mission to the Moon

Spirit robot (LASSIE Project) (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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Collaborative robotics: the future of space exploration

Looking ahead, Qian’s team plans to develop more quadrupeds to advance its mission. Thanks to a $2 million grant from NASA, the TRUSSES (Temporarily Robots Unite to Overcome Sand Traps, Then Separate) project aims to deploy groups of robots to the Moon. These robots will share their knowledge and form a locomotion risk estimation map to help them in their planetary explorations.

Spirit robot (LASSIE Project)

Spirit robot (LASSIE Project) (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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Kurt’s Key Takeaways

Palmer Glacier on Oregon’s Mount Hood isn’t the moon, but it’s a great place to train. Here, Spirit and her future robotic companions learn to navigate extreme terrain, transforming into structures like bridges or pyramids to overcome obstacles. This research not only pushes the boundaries of technology, but also inspires us to reimagine the possibilities of teamwork in the face of adversity.

What potential scientific discoveries do you think legged robots could enable on celestial bodies that are currently inaccessible to wheeled rovers? Let us know by writing to us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

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