NASA announced they're testing two prototypes of lunar robots, the K10 Black and K10 Red, in the Haughton Crater at Devon Island in Canada.
The researchers were expecting typical Arctic weather, with ice-cold temperatures and unpredictable storms, Deans said. This year? Not so much.
"We've had too many days of good weather. We were hoping it would rain more so we could have more time working on our code," Deans said, half joking, over a live video link from Haughton Crater sent here to NASA Ames Research Center.
NASA hasn't put autonomous robots on the moon before, only human-driven rovers. In the late 1950s, the Soviet Union landed a robotic rover on the moon called Lunokhod, a remotely controlled vehicle (via joystick) that captured imagery from television cameras.
Maria Bualat, a computer engineer on the robotics team at NASA, said that the 1.5-second time delay (3 seconds round trip) of radio communications from Earth to the moon makes it difficult to control such a device with precision. So when NASA got its mission orders to send astronauts back to the moon in 2020, it sought to design a more autonomous robot that will be able to perform missions and also act quickly on commands from humans on the moon. Her team has been working on K10 Black and K10 Red for the past couple of years.
"We talk about the three 'D's'--dull, dirty and dangerous--and taking away those jobs from humans and giving them to the robots," said Bualat, referring to tasks such as site surveys of the lunar surface.