Symbiotic Relationship of Man and Machine in Space Colonization


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Symbiotic Relationship of Man and Machine in Space Colonization

  1. 1. Symbiotic Relationship of Man and Machine in Space Colonization Roy Nielsen Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico 87544, USA 505-412-9204, Abstract. It is vital that space colonies and settlements be able to maximize any possible advantages to improve survival of both man and machines. An array of human and machine solutions and operations can be utilized to not only enhance safety, but to also increase productivity. For many years robots have been simply a part of science fiction. Funding for robot technology and development is hard to acquire and to maintain. Robot technology needs to reach “critical mass” in order to break the barrier of acceptance from funding organizations. Other technologies have overcome this hurdle and, by learning from and building on their experiences, this will generate funding and acceptance to propel robot technology in support of space colonization to a much sooner reality. Keywords: Robotics, Robots, Unmanned Vehicles, Integration, Interdisciplinary, Automation, Increase Productivity. PACS: 89, 89.20-a, 89.20.Kk, 89.75.-k INTRODUCTIONSince the beginning of time, man has tried to improve his lot in life. The stone tipped spear, the wheel, the forge,the cotton gin and the steam engine, to name a few examples. The last couple of centuries has seen a great burst intechnology and mechanization.Some advances that Scovel (1965) believed made a significant contribution to American industry and the way welive are McCormicks grain harvester, Vails bells, Westinghouses transformer, Fords Model T, Forests tubes andmore. More advances during this time include jets, man made satellites, heart monitors, semiconductors, automaticexternal defibrillators, computers and robotics. Besides specific inventions, process, procedures, documentation,testing and collaboration are some methods used to not only advance technology, but the acceptance of it as well.As humanity has learned to rely on its mechanized creations to improve and extend life, these creations require oursupport to survive as well. Service and support is available for these technologies to sustain the health of theadvancements and creations. One familiar service provided is that of the auto mechanic (The Princeton Review,2006). Other familiar services to support technology are the computer help desk and the Maytag repairman.Mr. Ford developed the assembly line to bring the Model T to the masses (PBS, 1998). Fords assembly linebrought several advancements to industry. A few of the notable parts of this contribution are commoninterchangeable parts, simplification of tasks, breakdown of duties for workers and an improved work flow. Bydeveloping the assembly line, Ford brought the model T to the the masses. Since that time, the concept of theassembly line became integral to manufacturing products in many industries.The evolution of computing not only demonstrated technological, but other achievements as well. Professionalassociations and special interest groups have played a large role in these FIRST PAGE OF EACH PAPER CREDIT LINE (BELOW) TO BE INSERTED ON THE areas. Two of these are common interfacesand common modules. Up to the 1970s, PP. 27 - 34, 35 - 42, 137available,297 - 304, 325 - 338, 339 the EXCEPT FOR ARTICLES ON computers were not widely - 146, quite often custom built. In -1970s and 80s,388, 430 - 437, 605started to640 - 651, 652 - 659, 668 a smaller extent699, 769 - 776, 345, 380 - the personal computer - 614, take hold in businesses and to - 680, 692 - in the home. 830 - 837, and 995 - 1003 CP880, Space Technology and Applications International Forum—STAIF 2007, edited by M. S. El-Genk © 2007 American Institute of Physics 978-0-7354-0386-4/07/$23.00 888
  2. 2. One positive note during this era was the birth and use of common modules in computer systems. Video, audio,memory, communications, hard drives and motherboards started to be designed to be separate interchangeablemodules within the same manufacturers computers.There were two specific problems during this era. Firstly the personal computer may or may not have beencompatible with devices that people wished to share data with. The second was that even companies that advertisedthe use of the same interface didnt necessarily implement them in a compatible way. This caused end usersfrustration at the loss of time and money due to incompatibility.The 90s brought more inter-company cooperation and collaboration. One specific example of this was the PCI bus.Companies came together to define common interfaces they would all design to, both motherboard manufacturersand device manufacturers. Devices became more compatible, and even interchangeable between differentmanufacturers. This era of inter-company collaboration also brought definition to common modules, which now aredesigned to interface specifications as defined by the PCI-SIG (PCI-SIG, 2006), USB Implementers Forum(Universal Serial Bus, 2006) and the IEEE.A niche for specialized computing has always been required, and so will specialized robotics continue to berequired. Common modules may not be appropriate for robots such as these (Innovations-report, 2006).Common modules and common interfaces can be a boon to robots both here and off world, as they have been in thearena of computing and automotive industries. Learning from and building on these previous efforts, the area ofrobot technology can be propelled to a major part of successful space colonization. MODULESCommon engineering practices are often known as BKMs or best known methods. Some that are used in softwareengineering are re-use, breaking down a problem until it makes no sense to break it down further and having a welldefined interface between modules. COTS, sometimes known as Common Off The Shelf or Commercial Off TheShelf, is a widely used term in both the software and hardware world to describe items for sale to the public(Wikipedia, 2006). This term could also describe robotics modules.Some advantages that can be gained from designing and implementing COTS modules are: Early prototyping Easy maintenance or replacement of a defective module Modules could be interchangeable with other systems A module could be modified for new ideas and technologies A new module with a new design and technology could be added to the systemDesigning a common interface will not add significant development time to the process and it will save time withrepair and maintenance, and add flexibility and the ability to add future technology. Being able to perform earlyprototyping is also an advantage. If interfaces are well defined, time to market for a new module will decrease,decreasing time to profit that might otherwise be used spending large sums in continued R&D. This profit couldlead to more and better advertising as well as R&D dollars. This could also lead to easier development and designfor the ability of one robot to be able to repair another.Generic robot design can be broken down into several modules. One method to break down module design is: Control Chassis Propulsion Communications Guidance Power Instrumentation PayloadOne day robotic COTS modules may become as easily replaceable and available as buying an off the shelfcomputer, or buying the individual parts to put one together. 889
  3. 3. Control ModuleThe control module could be considered the brain of the operation. It is the decision maker. Based on input fromother modules, it outputs control signals to move, communicate, collect data and otherwise respond to input stimuli.Some control systems are currently as simple as a remote control car receiver sending signals to a motor controllerto change direction based on human input to a remote control. This is a very basic system, no instrumentation, and aminimal signal communication system.A more complex system might involve direct input from an infrared or sonar based guidance system to a BasicStamp processor to send signals to motor controllers managing ailerons, propellers and other parts of an RCairplane. Another complex system might have an embedded controller and operating system to control motors basedon guidance system input, while collecting and transmitting data wirelessly to a remote location. Chassis ModuleThe chassis is always an important design decision for a robot. Several decisions will need to be made. Where willit be used? If on land, will it need legs, wheels or tracks? If airborne, will it need to go longer distances withheavier payloads like an airplane, or shorter distances carrying lighter payloads like a helicopter? If water based,will it need to go on or under the water or both? How much will need to be water-tight? What other modules willbe required, or even optional? How will modules be mounted? Will communications be required? If so, how bigand what shape will the antenna be and how will it be mounted?The chassis will determine the scope and purpose of the robot. Propulsion ModuleThe means or method of moving defines the propulsion module. Three key issues define this module, which areterrain, environment and power requirements.For instance, all three issues are key to propulsion systems of land or air based robots that might enter and monitor alive volcano. These would minimally need to be resistant to heat and corrosion. Rubber or plastic wheels would notnecessarily be a good fit for going into a cinder cone, however a robot with legs or metal tracks may be moreappropriate. A hybrid water and land robot hybrid may be better suited to the use of a propeller on water whilehaving deployable wheels on landing. A repair robot in a shop may not be mobile at all. Possible module categoriescould be: Non-mobile Mobile Flying Mobile Water Surface Mobile Under Water Mobile on Land Universal Mobile, some combination of the above abilities Mobile in Space, which may include universal mobile propertiesAs with computing, the propulsion module could be a proprietary one of a kind, or a common off the shelf part suchas a RC airplane motor.Just about any type of robot that performs more than the most basic function will require some kind ofcommunication. There are several logical categories of robotic communications such as: Remote control Sending data about robot status Sending data from onboard instrumentation Passing or bridging data from one source to another, as an internet router or bridge might perform 890
  4. 4. There are also many frequencies that could be used. Different antennas are required for different frequencies, aswell as for the power or strength of the signal. When designing, careful attention must be paid to the laws of thecountries the module will be operating in, such as FCC regulations in the US. Guidance ModuleThere are several types of control systems that determine the ability and design of the guidance system. Theguidance control can be determined by one of three categories. First is remote control, either wireless or wired.Second is semi-autonomous, where a remote command is given and on-board sensors give feedback to the controlmodule for decision making to determine movement and function, either via wired or wireless link. The thirdcategory is autonomous, where remote control commands are not required for movement or functionality.Most guidance systems will have one of the following three sensor mechanisms. The first sensor mechanism isrelational, the second uses ambient energy and the third a feedback based mechanism.The relational mechanism figures out its position based on data, signals or ping in relation to an external signalsource. These can only be used where there are other devices that can be used to determine a relationship betweenthe remote device and the robot. Three types of relational mechanisms are GPS, CPS and SPS. GPS or the globalpositioning system is a satellite based technology. The mobile phone network could be called the CPS or cellpositioning system where the guidance system determines the robot location based on cell tower data. SPS or theswarm positioning system, could be defined as when many robots communicate and determine their position basedon the position of other robots in the swarm.Ambient mechanisms include systems that determine position or guidance feedback based on ambient conditions.Three examples of ambient mechanisms are vision, temperature and chemical detection. Vision systems depend onambient light conditions, and obstacles are avoided based on vision feedback. One example is robots in extremeenvironments, like inside the mouth of a volcano may use temperature feedback to determine safe operatingparameters, and exit the volcano when temperature thresholds are reached. Chemical detection could be used in thecase of mine robots, where oxygen deprivation may harm humans and possibly limit mobility or function of therobot as well.Feedback mechanisms use energy or signals generated by the robot, and determine position relationship to itssurroundings. Three examples of this are laser radar, sonar and whiskers. Power ModulePower modules can be grouped into three categories – stored, fuel and self power. The stored power module willcarry all the power it requires for the duration of its activities, such as battery power. The fuel module carries itsfuel requirement for the duration of its mission, which could be based on gas, propane, hydrogen or diesel. Selfpower modules could be based on solar, kinetic energy (Kilburn, 2005), and possibly be able to refuel or rechargestored or fuel systems. Instrumentation ModuleThe purpose of this module is to perform duties not specific to the operation of the robot housing it. This is anoptional module, that is not required for operation of the robot. Instruments that could fit in this category are: Sampling - both real time data collection and sample collection Environmental Monitoring - weather conditions, biological, chemical or radiological Video and Audio feeds Construction - tools, arms, to a plow for dirt-moving Repair - tools, arms or devices to repair structures, vehicles, robots modules or other devices.The key parameters for this module are physical characteristics, including size, shape, signal interfaces andconnectors. These characteristics will be closely tied to the definition of the chassis. Defining and designing to 891
  5. 5. common interfaces will make COTS robotic modules as available as PCI related devices for computers. Payload ModuleThe payload module also is not specific to the operation of the robot housing it. This module is for carryinginstrumentation, other robots, vehicles or other devices to a destination for remote deployment. The robot housingthe payload module may also have an instrument module associated with it to set up and initialize the deployeddevice if necessary. CATEGORIESRobotics can benefit from the learning of other industries. For instance, today many companies provide computersthat perform different purposes, yet still use common off the shelf parts. Using COTS, some control and collect datafrom specialized instruments. Some require faster processors, expansive memory and perform scientific calculationsfor days. Some perform the task as email terminals. Most hardware parts can be used in any of the abovecomputers because of the common interfaces and common modular functionality of the parts.Defining categories or purposes for robots can help accelerate the design and acceptance of the COTS roboticmodules. Just as Fords defining of categories of operation for tasks to be accomplished on the assembly line, thesame procedure can be used to optimize the use and purposes of mobile robots in space colonization.Some possible categories to define mobile robotics, for here on earth as well as off world are: EVbot Scanbot Repairbot Tugbot Shopbot Commbot Deploybot SpecbotEVbot stands for Extreme enVironment robot, which consists of robots that operate in extreme environments. Twoexamples of EVbots here on earth are NASAs AERCam and the older Dante volcano robots. Other examples ofrobots that would fall in this category are robots operating in the arctic, on or around oil rigs, in mines, and for use indangerous chem/bio/rad situations.The Scanbot is a robot that uses a system similar to the feedback module in the guidance system section above tomap an area, building, ship or device. NASAs AERCam also could fit in this category as its purpose is to inspectthe ISS and space shuttle. For space colonization on the moon or Mars, this category of robot could inspect theexternal structure of the habitat to insure habitat integrity as well as identify potential areas requiring repair ormaintenance.The Repairbot category is made up of robots whose purpose is to travel to a remote location and repair a structure,vehicle, robot, deployed instrumentation or other device.The purpose of the Tugbot is to travel to a remote location, tow or pick up a remote vehicle, robot or other deviceand bring it back to a shop to be repaired, recycled, cannibalized or otherwise disposed of.The Shopbot category does not have the same mobility requirements as the other categories. The purpose of thisrobot is to perform or automate the tasks of repair, recycle, cannibalization in “shop”, a room or location dedicatedto this purpose. The importance of COTS is emphasized by this robot category. Using common modules withcommon interfaces makes automation production as well as its other tasks easier and sharing of module types acrossrobots more feasible, coming close to the intent of Fords assembly line, except for the purpose of just productionand manufacturing, making repair and maintenance more feasible as well.The Commbot is dedicated to the purpose of communications. These could act as mobile routers, bridges, or evenhubs and switches. This could be used for anything between semi-permanent infrastructure for humancommunication to a temporary signal-forwarding device for short distance, low power systems. 892
  6. 6. The purpose of the Deploybot is to carry fuel, a vehicle, supplies, other robots, instruments or devices to a remotelocation, if necessary set them up and insure their operability.The Specbot is a special purpose robot that doesnt necessarily fall into any of the above categories and is forspecial, possibly one off purposes or experiments.Using COTS methods to design robots, and determine robot functionality can lead to interoperability of modulesbetween robots, as memory, video and sound cards for todays computers. This can lead to ease of maintainingspace colonization systems by humans, as well as ease the maintenance of the robots. Using the robots to automatejust the above tasks can free colonists to pursue methods to use local resources to grow or create what is required tomaintain human and automated systems. PRODUCT LINESThe definition of modules and categories could also drive the ability to easily produce, deploy and maintain roboticproduct lines. The combination of robots from the different categories above can pioneer a system of automation fora specific purpose. For instance, a system of robots could be designed to increase the safety and efficiency of oceanoil platforms, or deep earth mines.In both oil platform and mining situations, there are a combination of remote, communications, corrosion,maintenance, usability and other issues that would face space colonization. Prototyping and evolving product lineshere on earth can insure deployment off world is safe and adequately efficient for parts to be up to a year or moredistant.Another possible product line would be in support of Arctic research. This product line could include Arctic robotsfor on ice, under ice and airborne Scanbots, Deploybots, Tugbots, Repairbots and in the shop, Shopbots. With thedesigns engineered to be hardened against the cold and elements, these robots could be expected to maintain theirduties even during winter storms and other conditions difficult environmental conditions.Iris-Passcal (IRIS-PASSCAL, 2006) supports National Science Foundation related funding for instrumentation insupport of seismological study around the world. A product line for this organization could start with Deploybotsand Tugbots, eventually adding a mobile shop, Shopbots, Scanbots to monitor remotely deployed instruments on ascheduled basis, Commbots to relay real time data from low power instruments and Repairbots to take care ofremotely deployed instrumentation.One product line that is already being developed is a part of the Armys FCS or Furture Combat System UAVs,ARVs, SUGV, MULEs. The Army categories appear to be based on chassis and chassis capability. Most can bemapped into one or more of the above categories of EVbot, Scanbot, Tugbot, Commbot, Deploybot, with someweapon carrying Specbots. A few additions that could be made are the Repairbots, Tugbots, Deploybots andpossibly Shopbots. For instance, designs of remotely deployed instruments, such as temporary short-range, lowpower communication forwarding devices, could be enhanced for automated deployment by the Deploybots. Inurban combat situations, minimally the Commbot and Scanbot could be deployed to assist soldiers in intelligencegathering.The combination of modules, categories and product lines will lead to the symbiotic relationship between man andmachine in space colonization. SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIPUntil entirely self sufficient mechanisms can be developed from local materials and resources, colonists on otherplanetary bodies besides the moon will be far enough away to require reliable, sustainable systems to be able tosurvive. It may take a year or more to mail order anything from Earth.In the case of personal computers, COTS has been the name of the game for years. Anyone can buy off the shelf 893
  7. 7. video cards, memory, cpus, and other parts and build their own computers. No need to design and build CPUs,chipsets, memory, video cards or any other component first.When a communications module, guidance module or power module goes out on a system, COTS type technologieswill make replacement, repair and cannibalization easier for colonists to maintain machines in space colonization.COTS modules, along with a framework of robot categories and product lines will lead to a reduced amount of timeto repair and re-deploy systems. This will leave the colonists time to concentrate on becoming self-sufficient usinglocal materials to create known technology or even new technology to replicate or replace needed technology.While the machines take care of man in this instance, man is caring for the machines by insuring continualmaintenance, raw material gathering, production of constituent modules and new technologies are developed to carefor machines. Them helping us and us helping them.Besides the categories above which are most useful for extreme environments on earth, additional robot categoriescould include Interfacebots, or robots to interface with control systems, maintaining the internal environment andpower systems. Janitorbots could be used to maintain clean conditions inside the habitat, perhaps similar to thecurrent robot vacuums and other floor cleaning devices (IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, 2006). Designing withCOTS in mind will make maintaining these robots take little time and little effort.Common off the shelf modules will make for easy maintenance allowing colonists to not have to spend a bulk oftheir time just in maintenance of systems. A majority of robot categories will be the same as the ones describedabove, however new categories should be developed as the need arises. COTS type modules and categories arefundamental to the success of robot product lines.Creation of product lines for space colonization could be as important to space colonization as Fords assembly linewas to producing the Model T for the average man. The assembly line gave Ford the ability to produce a largenumber of vehicles reliably, without requiring experts for every step of the production process. A robot product linecould take a task like mining and automate not only the mining process, but also detection and identification ofbreakdowns, repair of machinery, robots and instrumentation, as well as deployment as well removal of machinery.This could give colonists the time to determine best how to use the resources, as well as developing newtechnologies to use, process or otherwise take advantage of the resources for local needs. Also excesses can betraded for what can not easily be had locally.Due to human requirements for earth-like environmental parameters, systems of some kind are required to maintainthese conditions. Fords initial push for automating manufacturing processes has generated a wave of manufacturingautomation that has brought high tech products to the average human in contact with the automobile, refrigerator,oven, microwave, radio, television and personal computer. The highly technical nature of these devices that makeour lives easier require our attention to maintain and care for continued existence. CONCLUSIONThere are many ways to get to a point where there are COTS modules, a framework of robot categories and productlines. One way is for a company to start designing and implementing this type of system in a completely proprietaryway. On the other end of the spectrum, a consortium of completely open source design shops could start designingand producing completely open hardware and software.COTS parts and systems have made the automobile and computer industries successful, widely used and integral toour every day lives. The usefulness of modules, robot categories, and robot product lines will give a significantadvantage to space settlers.Innovation and great technology is not missing from robotics. Commodity, commercial or common off-the-shelf,easy to use and maintain modules with interfaces, architecture and direction need development. A few organizationsthat currently have parallel or similar efforts are the IEEE, AIAA and AUVSI. Engaging these organizations candrive help drive the COTS effort.There will always be a small need for a few high cost, highly specialized robotics. There will also always be a call 894
  8. 8. for better, faster, cheaper devices from the people holding the money. As the cost of building systems describedhere continues to drop and the time to profit continues to decrease, people with money to spend on R&D will noticethe larger return on investment for these systems. This will drive more investment as the money holders realize theirdesires faster, while spending less money to do so, making more money available for other research. The moreresearch dollars available, the more can be done to get to space.What now? Successful space colonization. NOMENCLATUREAIAA = American Institute of Aeronautics and AstronauticsAUVSI = Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems InternationalBKM = Best Known MethodsCOTS = Common/Commercial Off The ShelfCPS = Cell Positioning System, describes cell phone/tower technologyGPS = Global Positioning SystemIEEE = Institute of Electrical and Electronic EngineersIRIS = Incorporated Research Institutions for SeismologyPASSCAL = Program for Array Seismic Studies of Continental LithospherePCI = Peripheral Component InterconnectSPS = Swarm Positioning System ACKNOWLEDGMENTSI wish to express my gratitude to friends on the internet for the fertile soil of innovation, Anita Gale and DickEdwards for the encouragement to proceed and for the patience of my wife and children. REFERENCESScovel, H. F., The Fifty Great Pioneers of American Industry, J. G. Ferguson Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois, 1965, pp. 14-18, 106-109, 123-126, 196-199.The Princeton Review, “Career Profiles, Career: Auto Mechanic,” (2006),, accessed July 21, 2006.Public Broadcasting System, “A Science Odyssey: People and Discoveries, Ford installs first moving assembly line,” (1998),, accessed July 22, 2006.PCI-SIG, “Home,” (2006),, accesed July 26, 2006.Universal Serial Bus, “Universal Serial Bus Home,” (1995),, accessed July 26, 2006.Innovations-report, “Snake Robot to the Rescue,” (2006),, accessed July 26, 2006.Wikipedia, “Commercial off-the-shelf,” (2006),, accessed July 30, 2006.Kilburn, Debby, “Backpack generates power from walking,” (2005),, accessed July 26, 2006.IRIS-PASSCAL, “PASSCAL Contact page : IRIS,” (1995),, accessed July 26, 2006.IEEE Robotics and Automation Society, "Cleaning and Housekeeping," (2006), http://www.service-, accessed September 7, 2006. 895