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NASA's new bots: better, faster, cheaper

Marc Perton
Marc Perton|March 9, 2005 4:33 AM
mars scorpion nasa

Scientists at NASA are busily working on the next generation of Mars-exploration robots, with agility, intelligence and budgetary realities setting the agenda. According to a profile in the San Francisco Chronicle, the new robots include the Scorpion, an eight-legged robot that can stroll across the rough Martian terrain without stumbling (shown at right in a NASA photo) and the K9 rover, a variation on the current Mars rover that can work 10 times faster than the original model. Of course, speed is a relative term when it comes to the tasks these bots perform. The original rover took three days to take a picture of a rock; K9 will be able to shoot a blazing four shots in two hours. Scientists boast that up to 75% of the chips and switches used in the new bots are off-the-shelf components that you can pick up in stores like Fry's, which keeps costs down and also raises the tantalizing question: who will build the first basement copy of the K9 or Scorpion?