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Robot Dog Spirit Trains on Mt. Hood for Lunar Exploration

by Lisa

A team of scientists is gearing up for an innovative experiment this summer on the slopes of Oregon’s Mt. Hood, where they will train a robot dog named Spirit to navigate rugged terrain in preparation for potential lunar exploration missions.

Led by Douglas Jerolmack, a professor of Earth and planetary sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, the project aims to equip Spirit with the skills needed to traverse challenging landscapes similar to those found on the moon. With $3 million in funding from NASA, Spirit relies on its camera head and four metal legs to maneuver through uneven terrain, mimicking how a human tests the stability of icy ground before proceeding.

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Traditionally, lunar exploration has been conducted using four-wheeled rovers, but these vehicles face limitations on steep slopes and loose soil. Spirit represents a new approach, offering greater mobility and the ability to explore previously inaccessible areas.

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The potential of legged robots like Spirit extends beyond individual exploration. NASA has also funded research into collaborative robot teams, such as the TRUSSES project led by Cynthia Sung of the University of Pennsylvania. These teams could work together to overcome obstacles and map out safe routes on the lunar surface.

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While the specifics of Spirit’s lunar mission are still to be determined, the project marks an exciting step forward in the development of robotic technology for space exploration. As the researchers continue to refine Spirit’s capabilities, the possibility of a robot dog roaming the moon’s surface draws nearer.

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