Alien: Covenant has a lot of far-flung futurist tech in it, which will inevitably be smeared in bits of the cast by the time the xenomorphs are done with them. But one piece in the movie is actually a bit of present-day technology: A small Rover provided by Audi that the manufacturer actually plans to send to the Moon once its Hollywood career has taken off.
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This has been a year of haptics: From the widespread use of it in consumer electronics through the Apple Watch, to the boom in development of touchable interfaces. Soon, an astronaut aboard the ISS will attempt a major haptic experiment — by controlling a super-precise robot here on Earth using force feedback from aboard the ISS.
The allure of a warm, liquid ocean beneath Europa's icy surface has inspired science fiction and real NASA missions alike. But if and when we get around to extraterrestrial oceanography, what will our undersea explorers look like?
On January 4, 2004, the first of two identical robotic exploratory rovers, NASA's Spirit, snapped this stunning 360 degree image of its surroundings, moments after setting down on Mars. In the years to follow, both Spirit and its sister Opportunity helped revolutionise our understanding of the Red Planet.
When NASA's Opportunity rover launched on July 7th, 2003, expectations were modest. It would spend 90 Martian days exploring soil and rock samples and taking panoramas of the Red Planet; anything else would be a bonus. Nearly 10 years after its initial shift was up, Opportunity is still going strong.
After spending all that time, money and effort delivering a crew of astronauts millions of miles through space to some distant celestial body, do we really expect them to trundle around like a pack of schmucks once they get there? Not a chance. That's why NASA's next explorers will roll deep in the Space Exploration Vehicle.
Whether you think it's our fault or not, the simple fact of the matter is that the Earth is heating up — so much so that last summer's heat caused surface melting along an unprecedented 97 per cent of the Greenland ice sheet. Now, researchers are turning to an ever-ready solar rover to survey the damage.
Moving people and supplies across the Great White South is treacherous, difficult and expensive, with logistical costs constituting as much as 90 per cent of an expedition's budget — about $US125,000 a trip on average. And that's assuming the convoy isn't swallowed by an ice crevasse en route. This new radar-equipped rover could help the National Science Foundation save lives and millions of dollars a year on such expeditions.
Considering what it's involved, Mars Rover Curiosity's mission has been going really well. Staggeringly well. But that couldn't last forever. The rover has hit its first real road bump with a gnarly computer failure that's going to delay all the science-ing for at least a week.
To build and supply a lunar base, astronauts will need heavy-duty space trucks for transporting gear. There's just one problem: no roads. That's why NASA engineers designed the rover they call ATHLETE (All-Terrain Hex-Limbed Extra-Terrestrial Explorer)-to handle any terrain, whether dusty, rocky or crater-y.