Lunar Roving Russian Robot Found After 37 Years

A Russian robot rover has been photographed from lunar orbit after 37 years.  The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) imaged the area on one of its orbits of the Moon.  Then, Phil Stooke, a researcher from The University of Western Ontario, solved a 37-year-old space mystery using lunar images released yesterday by NASA and maps from his own atlas of the moon.  Lunokhod 2 stands 4 ft 5 in high and is about 5 ft 7 in long and 4 ft 11 in wide, and it shows up clearly in the overhead photo.  For mobility, it used 8 independently powered wheels.

As explained on the Wikipedia site, “Lunokhod 2 was equipped with three television cameras, one mounted high on the rover for navigation, which could return high resolution images.  These images were used by a five-man team of controllers on Earth who sent driving commands to the rover in real time. Power was supplied by a solar panel on the inside of a round hinged lid which covered the instrument bay, which would charge the batteries when opened. A polonium-210 radioisotope heater unit was used to keep the rover warm during the long lunar nights.  After landing, the Lunokhod 2 took TV images of the surrounding area, then rolled down a ramp to the surface at 01:14 UT on January 16 and took pictures of the Luna 21 lander and landing site, driving for 30 meters. After a period of charging up its batteries, it took more pictures of the site and the lander, and then set off to explore the moon.

The rover would run during the lunar day, stopping occasionally to recharge its batteries with the solar panels. At night the rover hibernated until the next sunrise, heated by the radioactive source.”

This rugged robot still holds the record for distance driven on another planetary body.  It covered about 23 miles on its lunar trek.  By comparison, the Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, has traveled just over 12 miles. 

It is easy to forget sometimes that robots have been exploring space for decades, and although today’s machines are more capable in some ways, the explorer robots of the past accomplished some amazing feats considering the technology of the times.  You can read the complete story at the site linked to at the bottom of the page.  You can also click on the photo below for the article.


Photo Credit:  NASA

A Canadian researcher has helped solve a 37-year-old space mystery using lunar images released by NASA and maps from an atlas of the moon.

Russian lunar rover found: 37-year-old space mystery solved
(author unknown)
Wed, 17 Mar 2010 18:00:00 GMT

Mars Rover Spirit Update

In an update of the Mars rover's situation, the flight controllers have indicated that the plans will switch to surviving the upcoming Martian winter rather than trying to extricate Spirit from the sand trap where it is stuck.  The story from Cosmic Log is linked to below.  Follow that link to read the post. 

    "Right now the rover is embedded … we do not believe it's extractable," Doug     McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, said today during a     teleconference. "Right now the worry is about getting through the winter."


Trying to Dig Out, Mars Robot Digs Into a Discovery

Sometimes the biggest discoveries come through by accident.  Spirit, the Mars robotic rover stuck in a patch of loose Martian soil, has churned–up something interesting.  Bright, fluffy material covered by a dark crust.  To see what this might mean, check out the article from


Credit: JPL/NASA via PhysOrg

Spirit surveys its own predicament. The bright soil pictured left is loose, fluffy material churned by the rover's left-front wheel as Spirit, driving backwards, broke through a darker, crusty surface. At right is the least-embedded of the rover's …

Sandtrapped Rover Makes a Big Discovery – PhysOrg
(author unknown)
Thu, 03 Dec 2009 21:45:00 GMT

Robot Crawls the Seafloor to Explore Life

From New Scientist comes this story about a deep sea rover, called Benthic Rover, that is exploring the ocean’s depths.  Hard to believe that we know less about the ocean floor than is known about the surface of Mars.  This automobile-sized robot, developed by the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), is attempting to change that by traveling across the abyssal seafloor. In order to achieve this feat, engineers had to overcome several challenges.  Obviously, the biggest barrier to this type of exploration is the extreme pressure at depth.  To protect the sensitive electronics systems, custom titanium spheres were built to contain them.  In order to keep from sinking in the muddy seafloor, special flotation devices allow the rover to crawl across the marine sediment.  To prevent the tank-like threads on the robot from stirring up clouds of fine particles, a pair of off-the-shelf broom heads keep the threads clean. 

You can read all about this robot at the link below and at the New Scientist and at the MBARI website.

Benthic rover during test dive

Image: © 2007 MBARI

The Benthic Rover makes its way across the deep seafloor during a trial run in 2007. The "brains" of the vehicle are protected by a spherical titanium pressure housing. The orange and yellow objects are made of incompressible foam, whose buoyancy makes the Rover light enough underwater so that it won't sink into the soft deep-sea mud. 

Source: Monterrey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Like the robotic rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which wheeled tirelessly across the dusty surface of Mars, a new robot spent most of July traveling across the muddy ocean bottom, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) off the California coast. This robot, the Benthic Rover, has been providing scientists with an entirely new view of life on the deep seafloor. It will also give scientists a way to document the effects of climate change on the deep sea.

New Robot Travels Across The Seafloor To Monitor The Impact Of Climate Change On Deep-sea Ecosystems
Thu, 10 Sep 2009 18:00:00 GMT