Modelled off insects like ants and cockroaches, our hexapods are designed to go where no robot or human can easily access. This includes space, and bots like CSIRO’s Data61’s Gizmo are well-suited to exploring new worlds, including places vehicles like the rovers used on Mars can’t.

The Australian Space Discovery Centre has just opened at the Australian Space Agency’s Adelaide headquarters, with exhibitions displaying the latest innovations in space technology and showcasing Australia’s role in expanding national and international space activities.

Neither a space museum nor a play centre, it was created with a very specific purpose in mind: inspiring young people, particularly 12 to 25-year-olds, to think about jobs in the space industry. Not just being an astronaut, but the engineers, lawyers, trainers, IT specialists, nutritionists, visual design artists and more that will also play a crucial role in extra-terrestrial exploration.

“This is a great exhibition, because it’s inspiring the next generation of Australian engineers, who a few decades from now, might call a base on the moon their robotics lab,” says Dr Navinda Kottege, Principal Research Scientist of the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Group at CSIRO’s Data61.

“Right now, robots are extending our reach in space exploration. There are rovers sensing and sending back invaluable information from Mars. At the International Space Station, robots are already helping astronauts with daily tasks.

In future lunar and planetary missions, advanced robots and autonomous systems will be invaluable helpers to astronauts because they won’t be confined to climate-controlled habitats or life support systems. These robots and systems will be tasked with operating space stations and bases when humans aren’t present.

With advances in technology, not only would they be performing routine tasks in these missions, but also autonomously exploring and making scientific discoveries to advance human knowledge”.

Ryan Steindl, Senior Mechatronics Engineer from the group, agrees. “Human and robots working together in space will greatly increase mission productivity, allowing both to do what they’re good at. Robots can operate in harsh environments like space or extra-terrestrial bodies for long periods.

Data from teams of robots will inform human decisions about where best to explore, and where the best science will be found. This approach greatly increases our ability to discover new things while reducing cost and risk to humans.”

For those who can’t squeeze in a trip to Adelaide, another Australian Space Agency exhibition, Australian Space Agency has opened at Questacon in Canberra.  It will be in there until around March 2022, before touring the country. Learn more about hexapods and their capabilities here.