Space Travel Robots Take Tiny Steps Toward Future

Still fascinated by space travel, Americans can’t seem to get enough of the romantic side of it all. But in the day-to-day business of space exploration, scientists and those who make a living in space have little time to be sentimental. NASA planning and implementation people are looking to get there in a realistic, cost-conscious way, one step at a time.

“Space and space exploration have always been romanticized. I think this is because space is inherently impossible for most everyone to get to, and because space is so far away, we wonder what it’s like,” said Patrick Pattamanuch, Materials and Processes Engineer, Boeing Satellite Systems on future-thinking

NASA’s Mars Program Planning Group, the people charged with developing a new strategy for exploration of Mars, is looking at future robotic missions that can help meet a call for sending humans to Mars in the 2030s.

“We’re moving quickly to develop options for future Mars exploration missions and pathways,” said five-time space shuttle astronaut John Grunsfeld, an astrophysicist in a NASA news release.

NASA’s robots are actually a work in progress now, being tested to re-fuel satellites.

A challenge that engineering teams face when designing satellites is how much fuel they can carry to operate throughout their lifetime. NASA hopes to refuel satellites rather than letting them become space debris.

Significant results from work being conducted in on-orbit robotics servicing will position Canadian and American exploration missions to come, but will also open doors for commercial applications driven by industry.Coming up in August, NASA will land the robotic Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity on the planet’s surface. This roving science laboratory will assess whether Mars is or was able to support life. Next year, NASA will launch the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution orbiter to help assess the Martian upper atmosphere.

NASA’s strategy is focused on maintaining America’s critical technical skills and to achieve the highest priority science and exploration objectives, now with far less funding and more cuts on the way in 2013 as we see in this video.

[Flickr photo via Flying Jenny]