Plan to develop family of space robots
Updated: 2016-06-21 07:44
By Zhao Lei(China Daily)
China plans to develop a large family of robots for both its unmanned and manned space programs, according to a senior official with the nation's space agency.
Tian Yulong, secretary-general of the China National Space Administration, said the government is drawing up a long-term plan for the development of space robots.
"They will consist of Mars rovers, asteroid explorers, robotic arms and service robots that can help maintain and repair an in-orbit space station, space laboratories and satellites," he told reporters on the sidelines of the 13th International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation in Space, which is being held in Beijing.
The three-day event, which opened on Monday, is being hosted by the space administration and Harbin Institute of Technology, and the attendees come from more than 10 countries including the United States, Germany and Japan.
"More efforts will be made to develop advanced robots with higher automation to meet the needs of our deep-space exploration programs," Tian said.
He said that China's Mars rover will be based on proven, domestically developed technologies and will benefit from the operation experience of the country's Yutu lunar rover.
China plans to send an unmanned probe to orbit and land on Mars around 2020.
Since the 1960s, more than 40 probes have journeyed to Mars, but only 19 have accomplished their missions.
At present, there are two rovers beaming signals from the planet's surface back to Earth: NASA's Mars Exploration Mission rover "Opportunity" and its Mars Science Laboratory rover "Curiosity".
Professor Liu Hong, a senior robotics expert at Harbin Institute of Technology, said space missions are very risky for astronauts as they often involve operations in vacuum, under extreme temperature changes and in high radiation.
"Such operations are suitable for robots to carry out," he said.
"Robotic arms are an ideal combination of human intelligence and robotic capability, and these will be one of our research focuses."
China is already a leader in the research into robotic arms, and its achievement has been recognized by the international space community, according to Liu.
Gianfranco Visentin, head of the automation and robotics section of the European Space Research and Technology Center, said the European space community is actively cooperating with China and the two sides are enhancing their collaboration in space robotics and lunar exploration.
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