NASA recently announced its astronauts aboard the International Space Station are currently preparing the new flying robots called Astrobee to improve science on the orbiting laboratory. This, the organization said, is a technology that could be essential to deep space exploration in the future.

These cube-shaped machines are floating in the orbit's microgravity. They are also using jets of compressed air to perform maneuvers.

Essentially, Astrobees, as seen on NASA's YouTube video below, can be run by the crew of the space station or by people on Earth in order to perform scientific research.

According to project manager Jose Benavides, from NASA's Ames Research Center in California, in the near future, they may help astronauts as well in monitoring the space station systems.

He added, they are planning to have the flying robots perform "boring routine tasks because crew time is one of the most valuable resources we have up there."

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Three Astrobees Launched in 2019

UPI reported, in 2019, three Astrobees were launched to the space station for the replacement of SPHERES robots that had flown around the United States part of the station for over a decade.

SPHERES units were designated mainly for science, while NASA said it has bigger plans for these new flying robots.

For instance, NASA and Bose audio equipment company are currently devising specialized microphones that could record the machinery's sounds, explained Benavides.

Over time, these flying robots could alert the space crew to any abrupt change in noise patterns that could signal a problem with the life support systems of the station.

Essentially, Astrobees may carry sensors too, to detect high carbon dioxide levels, which could generate fatal emergency. To date, the said report specified, NASA has unpacked the commissioned "two of the three robots," namely Honey, Bumble, and Queen.

Science Times - NASA Astronauts Preparing ‘Astrobee’ Flying Robots to Enhance Space Science
(Photo : NASA on Wikimedia Commons)
Three Astrobee free flyers are on board the International Space Station to perform video and sensor tasks, and to provide a microgravity research platform for other payloads.

Composition of the Astrobees

These flying robots are devised with speakers, laser imaging or LIDAR, cameras, signaling lights, an LED touchscreen control panel, and a docking arm.

More so, Astrobees can fly to a charging station for their batteries to be replenished. They carry a laser pointe, as well.

Describing the robots, Benavides elaborated, "that is actually a standard laser pointer you'd use giving a presentation."

He added, ground control could utilize the pointer of the Astrobee to determine something like, for instance, an air leak or a defective wire.

Great Platform to Work With

According to the space station updates of NASA, just before 2019 ended, astronauts on the space station reviewed procedures for an Astrobee investigation about trapping space debris.

Stanford's Autonomous System Lab aerospace engineer and research assistant, Abhishek Cauligi said, Astrobees are also set to test an adhesive material that emulates gecko lizard feet to attach themselves to numerous surfaces.

The research assistant added, "Astrobee has been a great platform to work with." Compared to SPHERES, he continued, this space technology has been more thoroughly validated. Its operational restrictions set such that "we are provided more freedom" to direct and operate the robot.

Astrobees will be vital for planned missions to Mars and the moon, and especially for the operations of habitats in space, explained Ben Lamm, the artificial intelligence firm, Austin-based Hypergiant founder and chief executive.

The company executive said, "Robotic platforms will slowly and methodically be utilized" to inaugurate and retain a power, data, and water infrastructure that eventually will be capable of sustaining long-term human existence on and near the moon.

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