NASA is sending a trio of miniature vehicles to the moon to test how well they cooperate without direct input from mission controllers on Earth. The project is called CADRE (Cooperative Autonomous Decentralized Robotic Research)
NASA is sending a trio of miniature vehicles to the moon to test how well they cooperate without direct input from mission controllers on Earth. Project CADRE (Cooperative Autonomous Decentralized Robotic Research), a teamwork experiment to demonstrate new technology, is another step the agency is taking in developing robots that, by acting autonomously, can increase the efficiency of future missions. And the intention is that by taking simultaneous measurements from several locations, the vehicles will show how multi-robot missions could possibly enable new science or support for astronauts.
The three small CADRE vehicles, now scheduled to land in 2024 as part of the CLPS (Commercial Lunar Landing Services) initiative, will descend to the Gamma Rainier region (see image below) of the Moon via cables. Each vehicle is the size of a trolley suitcase, with four wheels. They will move to find a place with sunlight and there they will open their solar panels and charge. After that for 14 earth days - the daylight hours of one lunar day - they will perform experiments designed to test their abilities.
"Our mission is to show that a network of mobile robots can cooperate to perform a task without human intervention - autonomously," said Soba Commander, CADRE project manager. "This could change the way research is done in the future. The question they will ask in future missions will be how many vehicles to send and what they will do together."
Mission controllers on Earth will send a general command to the vehicles' base station on the four-meter-tall lander. The team of small robots will then choose a "leader" who will divide work assignments to accomplish the collective goal. Each vehicle will think how to optimally and safely perform the task assigned to it.
"The only instruction is, for example, 'Go explore the area,' and the vehicles will think about everything else: when they will move, which route, how they will maneuver around local hazards," said Jean-Pierre de la Croix of JPL, the principal investigator of CADRE. "They are only told the ultimate goal, and they have to determine how to carry it out."
More of the topic in Hayadan: