Do-It-Yourself Podcast: Robots

Robots Resources

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Robots: In This Module

A small robot with arms and legsNASA uses many types of robots. Some NASA airplanes and spacecraft are considered robots. Learn the main parts of any robot in the Robots background information. The More About Robots links lead you to sites with more facts, pictures, videos and interactives that show the variety of robots used by NASA.

This module has audio or video clips of

  • A robotic engineer.
  • Different kinds of NASA robots.

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Robots Background Information

Robot Basics
When we think of robots, we often picture an android -- a robot built in a human form. But robots come in all shapes and sizes. They may be round like a ball or built like an insect. They can be small enough to fit in your hand or as large as a school bus. No matter the shape or size, a robot is a complex, electronic machine. Humans program robots to do work. But robots can also play soccer, make music and study planets.

Robots can:
  • Work in places too dangerous for humans, such as volcanoes, areas of high radiation and environments with no oxygen.
  • Do repetitive tasks that may bore people.
  • Go where humans cannot go, such as small places, tight spaces or other planets.
  • Work without stopping, becoming tired or getting distracted.

Some robots are used for building and assembling objects. They are programmed to do the same job repeatedly. Other robots may be teleoperated, or controlled remotely. They can do more than one type of job. They also may be autonomous, meaning they are programmed to react to their environment and "think" about what they should do next.
NASA Robots
NASA uses all types of robots. Industrial robots build materials for NASA's newest rockets. Unpiloted airplanes help NASA study ice near the Arctic Ocean, monitor the atmosphere and test hypersonic engines.

Robotic spacecraft study the moon to find the best place for humans to build a lunar outpost. They also orbit other planets. Robotic satellites study Earth from space. Rovers on Mars search for evidence of water on the Red Planet.

Space telescopes that give us dazzling views of the universe are also robots. Even the International Space Station has a robotic arm to help move equipment and astronauts. The station’s large robotic arm is named Canadarm2. It was built by the Canadian Space Agency. Another Canadian robot, the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator is the station's robotic handyman. It is often called "Dextre." It is a smaller, two-armed robot capable of handling delicate assembly tasks on the space station.
Robotic Systems
Whether robots are building something on Earth or orbiting another planet, they are made of systems. The type of system that makes up the robot depends on the tasks it will perform. All robots are made of one or more systems.
Robotic System
To control movements and store information -- the computer "brains"
To give the robot a structure. The body is the mechanical hardware, and the shape depends on the robot's purpose.
To allow the robot to move depending on whether the robot will be in water, on land or in space
To study the robot's environment and help the robot monitor itself
To activate the robot. Robots can be powered in many ways.
To do the work that the robot was designed for. Tools are unique for the robot's task.
Robotic missions help NASA investigate environments and plan future missions before sending humans to uncharted territory. NASA will continue to use robots to explore places where humans cannot go.
More About Robots
› NASA Education Robotics Website
› What Is Robotics?
› What Is Robonaut?
› Parts of the Mars Science Laboratory Rover
› Robotics Multimedia
› Robotics Image Gallery
› A Helping Hand for the Space Station
› Rollover Mars Exploration Rover
› Meet Curiosity! The Mars Science Laboratory


Page Last Updated: September 11th, 2014
Page Editor: Sandra May