By Prashant K. Nanda
New Delhi : When India sends its proposed moon mission in 2011, it will have a unique robot developed indigenously by student-engineers and their professors at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) at Kanpur.
The 'SmartNav' robot being developed for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will help space scientists to navigate moon's surface during the manned moon mission and provide real-time data and pictures of the surface there.
The two-legged robot, fitted with sophisticated sensors and high-resolution cameras, is capable of recording information and images using laser beams.
"It can also detect the distance of a hindrance, enter a small crater, bring surface samples and return high resolution images to the lunar vehicle," said Susmit Sen, head centre for robotics at IIT-Kanpur.
"It will also make data gathering a lot easier for astronauts," Sen told IANS.
He said the device would help the ISRO immensely during the Chandrayan-II Moon Mission in 2011. In the first moon mission scheduled in 2008, the lunar vehicle will not land on moon but only circle around its surface, he added.
"We gave ISRO scientists a detailed presentation in January 2007. They have now have shown interest in our prototype. The organisation is seriously considering collaboration with us," added Sen, a senior research engineer.
The robot has been designed and put together at a cost of Rs.2 million (under $50,000), said Sen, and added that before it ventures into the space, some more customisation will be done by his team.
"Weather conditions in space are very different than on earth. So we have agreed that our robot to space will be a four-legged device for better navigation and convenience.
"After all, the robot must survive extreme shocks and work in rough terrain and vacuum conditions."