Special Issue on Advanced Space Robotics
Associate ProfessorThe Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, 3-1-1 Yoshinodai, Sagamihara, Kanagawa 229-8510, Japan
Toward the turn of the century, several missions to explore deep space such as the moon, Mars, asteroids, and comets are being planned for scientific observation. Recently, many researchers have studied and developed lunar or planetary rovers for unmanned planet surface exploration. Microrover missions have received much attention. In July 1997, NASA/JPL succeeded in the Mars Pathfinder mission and the Sojourner rover moved over the Martian surface gathering and transmitting voluminous amounts of data back to the Earth. NASA plans to send robots to Mars in 2003 and 2005 Missions. In Japan, the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) launched the Nozomi, a Mars’s orbiter. ISAS plans to send Lunar-A spacecraft with penetrators to the moon and is also promoting the MUSES-C mission for asteroid sample return. ISAS and the National Space Development Agency (NASDA) are cooperatively promoting the SELENE mission, whose major objectives are to acquire scientific data on lunar origin and evolution, and to develop technology for future lunar exploration. NASDA launched the ETS-VII satellite in 1997 for rendezvous docking and orbital robotics experiments. The International Space Station (ISS) is under construction by international cooperation. We will shortly start robotics activities onboard the Japanese Experimental Module (JEM) named KIBOU for the ISS. Space robotics including Al is a key technology for planetary exploration. Space robotics is expected to support space activities, such as external vehicular activities (EVA) and internal vehicular activities (IVA) for future space utilization. Future space projects will require space robotics technology to construct, repair and maintain satellites and space structures in orbit. This special issue on advanced space robotics introduces updated mission results and advanced research activities of space organizations, institutes, and universities, although it does not include all. We hope that this special issue will be useful to readers as an introduction to advanced space robotics in Japan, and that more robotics and Al researchers and engineers will become interested in space robotics and participate in space missions. We thank those researchers who have contributed their advanced research activities to this special issue, and deeply appreciate their earnest efforts.
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