Like it or not, robots are pretty much a mainstay of space travel, exploration, and research. See, the human body isn't really made for a low-gravity environment, nor is it designed to function in the vacuum of space. Spending too much time out in the void - even on a space station - can have some extremely troubling effects on human physiology, to say nothing of the potential for exposure to a wide spectrum of dangerous radiation.
Robots don't really have to worry about any of that. As a result, unmanned probes and drones have served to expand our frontiers well beyond what would otherwise be possible. There's a very good chance that they're going to remain central to our efforts in the wider universe for a very long time.
The European Space Agency certainly thinks so, in any case. On Saturday, the organization released a 3D animated video detailing a few of the forms interstellar robots might take in the future. These robots, explains the organization, will serve a number of different purposes as humanity extends its arms out into the stars; drones featured in the video range from small humanoid robots to larger construction drones with "varying degrees of autonomy and flexibility."
The video showcases a grand total of four different robots: a lunar rover with multifunctional wheels capable of serving as both legs and arm, a massive robot designed to unload cargo and habitation modules from space shuttles, a robotic, nearly-humanoid looking arm designed to carry out intricate repair work, and a large workhorse robot to move large volumes of dirt.
"The animation shows advanced concepts of robots designed to explore, prepare, and help humans in the very harsh conditions found on the Moon and beyond," reads the video description. "For many of the concepts shown, ESA has already developed real-life prototypes, including the multifunctional wheels seen on the robot in the first video."
At the moment, the ESA is looking towards the moon as the centerpiece of all this technology. People have, after all, been musing about colonizing the rock for quite some time; though no concerted efforts have yet been made. Perhaps with the robots featured in that video, we might see a real lunar colony spring up in the near future.
After that, who knows? The sky's the limit, right?