Not many robots enjoy full autonomy; humans often prefer to supervise them and make sure they are doing their job right. However, there are some situations where direct supervision is impossible. For instance, when sending robots to explore space, the communication latency increases as they get farther away from us, which makes it impossible to remotely control them since our commands will arrive too late. Also, it is possible that some operations are so complex that humans cannot process the required amount of information fast enough in order to react in time.
This is very much what happens to “Curiosity”, the latest rover traveling to Mars. Curiosity is the largest robot sent to Mars so far and is scheduled to land on the red planet on August 5th, 2012. As you can imagine, such a large and delicate machine requires a complex landing scheme in order to get to the planet’s surface undamaged. Well, as shown in the video below, the landing scheme is probably crazier than you thought and it involves the robot landing on its own while humans on Earth do not know what is happening for a full 7 minutes because of the latency.
This is probably one of the most complex missions a robot has needed to accomplish autonomously thus far, and we are eager to see the outcome. It is very inspiring to see what NASA can do with only 0.5% of the national budget.
Via Discovery News.