.By Fabienne Lang
There will soon be dogs roaming around on Mars. Well, robot dogs.
NASA/JPL Caltech scientists are working on “Mars Dogs,” which are robot dogs set to autonomously navigate the Red Planet’s rough terrain and underground caves, as was first reported by Live Science.
The team presented its plan virtually on December 14 at the annual American Geophysical Union (AGU).
These Mars Dogs will operate much in the same way as the rovers Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance, but will be able to do much more.
These new four-legged robots will be more agile and will come equipped with sensors informing them when obstacles come in the way, will be able to select specific paths, and create virtual maps of underground tunnels and caves, said the scientists.
These robotic dogs will be able to get back up if they fall down on Mars’ tricky terrain — something current rovers aren’t able to do.
Looks like dogs will still be man’s best friend on a different planet.
And what will the NASA/JPL Caltech robot dog look like? Well, it’s none other than infamous Boston Dynamics’ Spot the robot dog. For this project, Spot will be modified and will be called “Au-Spot,” as the scientists said at AGU.
Au-Spot has been outfitted with networked sensors and specific software to roam safely around the Red Planet.
At the moment, the Mars robot dog is being tested by the team to get through a number of different obstacle courses on Earth. It’s learning to go through tunnels, up the stairs and ramps, and in locations that resemble Mars’ surface and underground.
Adding such canine robots on Mars could revolutionize research of the planet. There’s no specific date yet for when Au-Spot will be launched, but keep an eye out for the exciting news.
NASA has been looking into using such a robot dog as Spot for its Mars missions at least since 2018. Now, that dream may become a reality.
Spot will now be doing more for humankind than serving beers in Spain, although that could be argued to be an extremely helpful feat, too.