Printer Friendly

ROBOTS GET READY FOR MARS.

Byline: Paula M. Story Associated Press

Robots trekking the Southern California sands may be taking the first small steps toward putting mankind on Mars.

That was the hope Saturday as about a dozen rover robots roamed the beach while scientists from around the globe talked of autonomous navigation, pitch-and-roll clinometers, rocker-bogie chassis and encoders for dead reckoning.

In layman's terms, that meant the mobile exploration vehicles can find their way around rocks and other obstacles, mapping as they go. Some demonstrated their ability to right themselves after flipping over.

About 100 scientists gathered for the Rover Roundup, which highlighted the Planetary Society's conference on exploration of the planets.

The event on a pint-sized facsimile of the Martian surface was designed to test the abilities of devices that researchers hope will blaze trails to Mars.

``Most of us feel that this is a preparation for when we do send humans,'' said Brian H. Wilcox of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. ``It's just a matter of time. . . . Someday, people are going to go to Mars.''

That quest took on additional excitement in summer when scientists announced that a chunk of Martian rock may contain fossil signs of life. A full-sized rover, NASA's Sojourner, is now hurtling toward the planet, tucked inside the Mars Pathfinder. It is scheduled to begin exploration of an ancient Martian floodplain July 4.

Data collected by rovers may someday explain why Venus swelters under a raging greenhouse effect or why Mars remains in a freezing slumber, said Wilcox, technical group supervisor for JPL's robotic vehicle group.

That, he said, could help answer a question closer to home: ``How do we keep Earth from becoming like Venus or Mars, which is to say, uninhabitable?''

For the roundup, scientists and engineers from the United States, Russia, Japan and Germany brought rovers ranging from the size of a laptop computer to a little smaller than a riding lawn mower.

CAPTION(S):

2 Photos

Photo: (1) Jake, a model of the robotic rover for the Sojourner space flight to Mars, rolls along the Santa Monica beach.

(2) A crowd watches a model of the rover scheduled to explore Mars in July.

Hans Gutknecht/Daily News
COPYRIGHT 1997 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 2, 1997
Words:364
Previous Article:BUSINESSMAN OFFERS TO BUY PACOIMA PLANT : PRICE PFISTER JOBS COULD RETURN.
Next Article:CAR HURTLES OFF FREEWAY, KILLING DRIVER.


Related Articles
Interplanetary hopefuls gather in D.C.
A year in the life of Mars.
A Real Martian Invader.
Hop ... Hop ... Hopbots!: Designers of small, mobile robots take cues from grasshoppers and frogs.
NASA BUILDS TWIN ROVERS FOR MARS MISSION.
EARTHLINGS CHEER MARS LANDING AT PASADENA FESTIVAL.
EXPERTS TO PLOT COURSE TO STARS; SCIENTISTS TO GATHER FOR CONFAB ON SPACE.
SCIENTISTS DEBATE MANNED TRIP TO MARS.
BUDDING MECHANICS COLE STUDENTS VIE IN ROBOT-BUILDING.
Calculator controlled robot.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters