NASA uses AI robot dog Au-Spot to explore caves on Mars



AI-integrated robot dog Au-Spot is being used by NASA to collect samples, explore dangerous terrains on Mars. 

AI-integrated robot dog Au-Spot is being used by NASA to collect samples, explore dangerous terrains on Mars. 

At the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Association (AGU), NASA researchers introduced the "Mars dog" robot, equipped with sensors to avoid obstacles, choose a route and build a map of buried tunnels and caves on the red planet.

NASA uses AI robot dog Au-Spot to explore caves on Mars

AI robot dog Au-Spot is being used by NASA to explore Mars / Ph: NASA/JPL-CALTECH

The wheel-driven adventure robots such as Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity can only move on flat surfaces, unable to access rough terrain.  With a weight 12 times lighter than traditional robots, traveling at a speed of 5km/h, the robot dog overcomes the weaknesses of earlier autonomous vehicles.  Even when falling, the robot dog can stand up normally.  Scientists said: "A robot overturned does not mean the mission has failed. Thanks to the recovery algorithm, the robot can stand up after countless falls".

The Au-Spot, an improved version of the four-legged robot "Spot" made by the company Boston Dynamics.  Over 60 scientists and engineers in the CoSTAR (Collaborative SubTerranean Autonomous Resilient Robots) team equipped Au-Spot with sensors and networked software that helps it scan, navigate and map the area around a  safe, automatic way.  The Au-Spot also uses AI (artificial intelligence) to identify which topographic structures to avoid and to identify objects of scientific research value.  In addition, a module also allows the robot to transmit data to the ground while exploring below.

NASA uses AI robot dog Au-Spot to explore caves on Mars

The "Mars dog" robot is equipped with sensors to avoid obstacles / ph: CoSTAR

According to NASA, the caves on Mars could provide shelter for humans in the future, helping us to withstand ultraviolet radiation and severe dust storms that last for weeks.  Caves may also hold evidence of ancient life on Mars, or are home to creatures that live deep underground.

CoSTAR team members are testing Au-Spot with obstacle tests, going through tunnels and corridors, climbing stairs and climbing ramps, and traveling in locations that simulate the Mars landscape like lava cave in Northern California (USA).  Tests have shown Au-Spot to be able to navigate around rocks and mapping for deep caves.

NASA uses AI robot dog Au-Spot to explore caves on Mars

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