Progress in Remotely Operated Equipment
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Dr. Robert Ballard found the wreck of the Titanic in 1985 using a remotely operated sled-like device called "Argo". It carried TV cameras just above the seabed at a depth of 13,000 feet. Today in addition to cameras and radar undersea ROV's can carry claw manipulators and electronic equipment that provides earth referenced position. In 2004 a French cabling company developed a remotely operated undersea dredging machine called Spider that can move about with thrusters or powered tracks. It uses water jetting and suction to move sea bottom material and has an arm that can use various tools as end effectors without coming up to the surface to change tools. Spider can be used to level a path for pipeline on the sea bottom. In the area of delicate manipulation, as would be needed for robot repair of robots on Luna, there has been developed remote control devices for performing surgery.
Remotely operated equipment just keeps getting better. Progress in the use of such equipment on Luna is way past due. Technology needs to be developed for lunar conditions as much as such technology was developed for problems on Earth. The significance of Robonaut to lunar exploration is learning that Robonaut would not be useful in developing a robot lunar base. It could perhaps be used as the worlds most expensive crash dummy in testing lunar landers before sending people to Luna. If there had been as much progress in developing robots for Lunar industry since the Apollo program as there has been in developing remotely operated equipment for problems on Earth, there could be growing industry on Luna now instead just talk about it.