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Robonaut is a joint DARPA-NASA project designed to create a humanoid robot which can function as an equivalent to humans during the 1970s and exploration. The large goal of the Robonaut project is to build a robot with dexterity that exceeds that of a suited astronaut. Currently there are four different robonauts with others in development, this variety of robonauts allows for the study of different stages of mobility and tasking for each situation. All four versions of this robot use various locomotion methods. Some versions of the robot use the Segway HT for locomotion [1]. Robonaut uses telepresence and various levels of robotic autonomy. While not all human range of motion and sensitivity has been duplicated, the robot’s hand has fourteen degrees of freedom and uses touch sensors at the tips of its fingers. One of the benefits of a humanoid robot is that it would not have to need a whole new set of tools.

There are currently two working robonauts, R1 and R2. R1 and R2 are both highly capable robots and are able to handle a wide range of tools and tasks. Robonaut 2 or R2 was flown to the space station as part of STS-133 mission and was the first humanoid robot in space. In the future legs will be added, and work is being completed to prepare Robotnaut to venture out into the vacuum of space. [1]

Pronounced “Razor”, stands for Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot. It is a lunar robot that will autonomously excavate soil when it is near completion, with its small tank like chassis with a Drum excavator and either side mounted on arms which can help the robot climb over obstacles that may be in its way. With these arms the robot can successfully right itself if it flips over and lift itself off the ground the clear its tracks of debris. With the drums positioned vertically RASSOR stands at about 2.5 ft. tall and expected to weigh about 100 pounds. With an average speed of about 20
centimeters per second (five times faster than the Curiosity rover’s top speed on mars) the RASSOR will work 16 hours a day for many years (aminimum of 5 years as sated in the design requirements). In its design NASA has moved away from its usual fragile and slow robot to design something more robust and hardy. The 2 excavating drums are designed to slowly remove soil into a hopper that can hold 40 pounds of material. The little robot will then drive to a processing plant where the lunar soil could be chemically broken down and converted into rocket fuel, water or breathing air for astronauts working on the moon and even possibly mars. In-situ resource utilization of lunar soil for fuel could save the costs of launching a rocket as 90% of the rockets weight consists of propellants.

The team working on the RASSOR has found some flaws with using tank tracks as they can become jammed with small pebbles and sand which could cause the tracks to fall off. The team is weighing their options and considering changing the material of the tracks or switching to wheels. The RASSOR 2 is already being designed and the prototype could be much closer to something NASA actually would launch. Testing is expected to begin in 2014.