Building a robot requires careful measurement to ensure that all the parts fit together perfectly. Measurements include angles as well as distances. Some robots, such as those with human-like hand motion, can be quite intricate. Hundreds of small parts must be precisely aligned at very specific angles. Special attention must also be given to wheel design.
Speed and Endurance
Once our robots are built, we need to test their performance. To do that, we attempt to recreate the terrain of the moon or planet the robot will be traversing. Robots that are programmed to visit a destination far from the landing zone must be able to move quickly. Robots that are doing more careful work such as collecting surface materials and rocks will be built for power rather than speed. To determine speed, we time how long it takes our robots to travel a specific distance. Then we use the relationship, Distance = Rate x Time, to calculate the rate or speed.
Robotic movement is controlled by a series of gears connected to motors. By varying the gear ratio, we can get a range of speed and power. The gear ratio is determined by comparing the number of teeth on the driving gear to the number of teeth on the gears it moves. Gear combinations can get very complex. We can slow robots to a crawl but give them the power to carry the weight of heavy equipment. Or we can exchange power for speed and enable our robot to move across surfaces quickly.
Space robots must carry out very specialized tasks and should be able to react to unexpected events. For example, if a robot encounters an obstacle as it travels away from its base camp, it has to know how to work around it while still reaching its destination. Programming artificial intelligence requires some very complex math. Procedures must be in place to calculate angles, distances, proximity to obstacles, and more.