This paper describes the challenges NASA sees in space exploration, highlighting several of the robotics solutions now being developed and tested. Overlaps with terrestrial exploration challenges will be noted as potential areas of collaboration. Results from a specific and ongoing collaboration will be described, showing a robot built for exploring tanks on the sea floor with access through existing pipes.
NASA has developed a roadmap for robotics and autonomous systems, as a part of a larger road mapping process for all space technologies. Roadmaps study future missions to identify where new technologies could reduce costs, shorten schedules or enable completely new approaches. These roadmaps are periodically updated by NASA, and the most recently released version will be presented for robotics and autonomous systems.
Once technologies are identified as needed to support missions, NASA uses technology projects to develop and then test prototypes in labs, test facilities and/or in space. The design and development cycle will be presented for a mix of such efforts, including delivery of robots to space for testing.
NASA's challenges include operating in extreme pressures, temperatures and radiation. Our missions also take humans and their machines far from Earth, where the speed of light induces time delays for control. NASA has pioneered new techniques for controlling robots in these harsh environments and across time delay with limited bandwidth. These techniques will be described with relevance for the offshore oil and gas industry.