Project M: Why is JSC Doing This?

At NASA, a Quiet Quest to Send a Humanoid Robot to the Moon, NY Times

"Project M slipped under the radar of everyone else in NASA, including the administrator, Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr. In February, in response to a question about projects that NASA might undertake with other nations, General Bolden cited a two-legged robot that the Japanese space agency wants to send to the Moon by 2020. "Do I think I can do that?" General Bolden said. "Probably not." At that time, the Project M team was hoping to get a go-ahead to start in March and accomplish the robotic Moon landing by the end of 2012."

Why Aren't We Hearing More About JSC's Project-M?, earlier post
Video: JSC's Project M, earlier post

Keith's Note: Then again, who's to blame Bolden? Mike Coats has openly supported and encouraged activities at JSC that have been in direct contrast to official policy issued to NASA by the President. In addition, Coats does things like this (Project M) and does not tell his boss, Charlie Bolden, what is going on. Coats is supposed to do what his boss tells him to do and so does Bolden. That's how all Federal agencies are supposed to work. In response Bolden's staff is supposed to do what he tells them to do based upon his direction from his boss, the President. Otherwise you have anarchy where everyone is in charge - and no one is in charge. Small wonder the agency is as fractionated as it is right now.

Minimal leadership + lack of workforce discipline = gridlock.

Keith's further comments: Sure this would be cool - and the potential uses for humanoid form factor robots has great potential. But Bolden has a point: can NASA really field a bipedal robot - on the Moon? Can they do so on Earth? With regard to the current state of the art of robot design, are there any bipedal robots - anywhere - that can operate autonomously or teleroboticaly that can traverse the terrain one would expect on the Moon (in 0.18G)? Can they do so and also perform meaningful tasks - task that could not be performed better (and more cheaply) by a robot with another form factor - perhaps a rover with arms? Can this JSC bipedal robot pick itself up after a fall? To be certain, the Soviets demonstrated that you can drive things around the Moon by remote control in the 1970s. But to have a bipedal robot walk around - regardless of how it is controlled - is an order of magnitude beyond that. Indeed, JSC has yet to demonstrate that anyone, anywhere, can do this. And yet they claim that they can do this from zero to flight in 2 years has yet to be demonstrated - to anyone.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on November 2, 2010 12:37 PM.

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