- Humans have sent several robotic vehicles to study Mars, about 34 million kilometers from Earth.
- The six-wheeled robot has two cameras that act as eyes and a mast that looks like a neck.
- Robots acquire “personality” through their experiences and first-person accounts on social networks.
- Do you already know our Instagram account? Follow us
When space robots like the Mars rover send a selfie, the mission’s ground scientists and engineers feel like they just got a FaceTime from a friend they haven’t seen in years.
We know that Mars rovers are robots, but we feel them as friends or pets. What makes us feel so attached to them?
The people who work with these robotic messengers—as well as the public—anthropomorphize them, or endow these inanimate robots with human-like qualities, and experts told Insider that this could help the overall mission. Is.
“In all of NASA’s missions, people feel some connection to the vehicle, whether it’s a rover, orbiter or lander,” Janet Vertesi, a sociologist of science and technology at Princeton University, told Insider. space mission.
“The robot is what unites the whole community, it’s like a symbol for the group.”
We are programmed to respond emotionally to the pretty faces of robots.
Even scientists and engineers can’t help but attribute human characteristics to space robots.
“That’s how robots are designed,” Curiosity’s deputy project scientist Abigail Freeman told Insider. “Our brains are programmed to make faces out of things that only resemble faces.”
For example, Spirit and Opportunity, the golf cart-sized twin vehicles that landed on the Red Planet in 2004.
Both measure just over five feet and have exceeded the scheduled 90 days to explore and collect data on the surface of Mars.
Like most modern rovers, the twins have a camera mast that resembles a neck.
“It really does look like a face, and it’s on purpose from a scientific point of view,” Freeman said. “We have two cameras that are more or less in the same location as the eyes.”
The explorers also have robotic arms designed to act like human geologists.
“We live vicariously through these space robots,” Emily Stuff, an engineer on NASA’s InSight lander, told Insider. “It’s like friends going on a great adventure, taking great pictures, and you can follow them from home.”
His ability to take selfies on the surface of Mars makes him self-aware.
The rovers are able to use a camera attached to their robotic arm to take stunning selfies from the surface of Mars.
“There’s a certain self-awareness behind taking selfies, and I think we can translate that to the rover,” Katie Stack Morgan, deputy project scientist for the Mars 2020 rover, told Insider.
“Of course, we’re the ones asking him to do that.”
“What has always struck me about selfies is how a subtle neck tilt can convey a different human emotion than a frontal view,” he said.
Robotic “personalities” emerge in the face of challenges on Mars
As the mission of the six-wheeled rover ages, the robot’s “personality” emerges.
Spirit and Opportunity were two rovers that were completely similar in design. But depending on the different places they landed on Mars, they had two different experiences.
«The soul became a kind of laborer who worked the land. I had to work very hard,” explains Freeman.
Opportunity, for its part, was dubbed “Little Miss Perfect” after geological evidence of liquid water landed on top.
Then there’s Curiosity, a car-sized rover that landed on Mars in 2012. Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory affectionately started calling it George, according to Stack Morgan, who also served as a geologist on the Curiosity rover mission.
The flexible robot has had to overcome many problems during its mission.
“You get a sense that the rover is facing challenges that become very human actions,” says Stack Morgan. “That’s when you really start to build that emotional connection through the ups and downs of operating a spacecraft — you really start to see them as a friend and partner who’s fighting alongside you. We Let’s deal with the terrestrial part and the rovers with the Mars part.
Not all members of the mission team accept this level of human characteristics for a literal robot.
Sociologist Vertosi said, “For some people, anthropomorphizing is going too far, because it will put pressure on them to actually care about the robot.”
The public can participate with first-person accounts on social networks
“Scientists have a way of interacting with robots that really brings them to life. But it’s not the same as the public,” Vertesi explains. “NASA encourages this because it’s part of publicly funded science. Public participation is very important for I think that’s why we encourage so much anthropomorphism among the public.”
It began with LiveJournal entries for Spirit and Opportunity, each given their own personality. Now, most of NASA’s missions have their own first-person social media accounts.
The explorers, landers and orbiters can also send heartwarming farewell messages thanks to their social media teams.
it’s hard to say goodbye to a friend
My power’s really low, so this may be the last image I can send. Don’t worry about me though: my time here has been both productive and serene. If I can keep talking to my mission team, I will – but I’ll be signing off here soon. Thanks for staying with me. pic.twitter.com/wkYKww15kQ
— NASA InSight (@NASAInSight) December 19, 2022
For teams of hundreds of engineers and scientists working on spacecraft to Mars, the end of a mission means the loss of an essential team member.
“It is also the loss of a team with whom you have worked very hard and very intensely for decades,” Vertesi said.
To bid farewell to NASA’s intrepid Opportunity rover in 2018, NASA’s mission staff decided to play Billie Holiday’s “I’ll Be Seeing You”.
“It’s like an awakening,” Vertesi said. “It’s a celebration of life and a last hurray for the team, both as a way of mourning and processing the loss of the robot they care so intensely about and have dedicated their lives to.”