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Robotics Engineer, Georgia Tech University
What do you think are the most significant events that have occurred in the past fifty years of robotic planetary exploration? Why?
The most significant event is the Mars Exploration Rovers.
This is the longest living autonomous robotic system that has functioned without physical human intervention. It represents a benchmark in both robotics history, as well as in in-situ planetary exploration.
The various algorithms that were uploaded during the mission extensions have enabled a number of scientific discoveries that would not have been possible otherwise.
In your field of work, what are some examples of the great achievements and discoveries in planetary science and robotic exploration throughout the past 50 years?
Sojourner: First instance of a mobile robot that functioned in an unknown environment with no physical human interaction.
Sojourner showcased the ability for planetary robots to function with some intelligence in enabling planetary science objectives. It proved that robots were now capable of roving on other planets, thus opening up amazing possibilities and pushing the boundaries for future scientific discoveries.
Mars Exploration Rovers: Spirit and Opportunity are now considered the gold-standard of robotics for long-term exploration in unknown and hazardous environments. For years-to-come, scientists will still be analyzing and evaluating the science data collected by the two-rover system sent to increase our understanding of the Martian planet.
Another great achievement is humanoids interacting with astronauts. Although they're still running through functional capabilities, it's still a significant achievement.
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