Russia Plans to Populate Future Moonbase With Robotic 'Avatars'

Wednesday, 07 November 2018 - 11:44AM
Space
Moon
Robotics
Wednesday, 07 November 2018 - 11:44AM
Russia Plans to Populate Future Moonbase With Robotic 'Avatars'
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Composite image from Pixabay
NASA has already announced plans to establish a permanent base on the Moon (even if the Mars Society isn't too happy with them), but its plans involve flesh-and-blood astronauts who need to eat food, drink water, survive radiation, and everything else that makes human colonization inconvenient. Apparently, Russia has decided to dispense with all that and populate its new Moon base primarily with robotic "avatars," ostensibly controlled by people on Earth.

Dmitry Rogozin, the director of Russia's national space agency Roscosmos, recently told the Russian news site RIA Novosti that Russia is drawing up plans for a new lunar exploration program, which will see cosmonauts traveling to the Moon as soon as the 2030s. In addition, Roscosmos is laying out their plans for the aforementioned Moon base. According to Rogozin: "We're talking about creating a long-term base, obviously not [continuously] inhabited but one that can be visited. But in general, we will transition to robotic systems, or avatars, that will perform tasks on the lunar surface."

It might seem like something out of James Cameron Avatar, but the truth is that space agencies have essentially had 'avatars' on Mars for years: rovers like Opportunity can allow humans on Earth to take virtual tours of the Martian surface thanks to their stereoscopic vision. "You can stand in a hollow room, if you will, and feel as though you are looking around on Mars and walking around in that scene," NASA's John Callas told the BBC. Meanwhile, a team from Stanford is already exploring the advantages of robotic avatars on other planets, which they envision as similar to giant puppets.

Because humans can adapt to unknown environments and various conditions, they're much better equipped to handle walking around and performing tasks than an autonomous AI. "Avatars are a way to side-step some of these problems because people are very good at solving these complex problems and can learn to operate complex machinery," said Jonas Buchli, a robotics expert at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

We'll wait to hear more details from Roscosmos, but in the meantime, we'd like to hear an update on that orbital base Russia has been planning around Venus.

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