While you are laughing at all those robots falling down…

… keep in mind the tasks in the competition were to:

  • get out of a vehicle,
  • walk a distance over level dirt,
  • walk over several feet of broken concrete,
  • climb about 5 steps,
  • identify and approach a door,
  • grasped the door handle and open the door, and
  • walk through the door.

That is a sophisticated collection of gross and fine motor skills.

Yeah, a bunch of them fell down.

Here’s the video:


In terms of autonomous robots that could carry out disaster search and rescue tasks, we are about at the same place that space travel was in the late ‘50s.

If you weren’t aware, consider there was a large number of quite spectacular failures in the early days of missile development. For example, the rocket that lifts 10 or 15 feet off the ground, slowly drifts back to the earth, and crumples with the expected spectacular explosion.

Then there are lots of clips of a good liftoff, smooth rotation, and then after a minute or three of good flight does a 180 degree flip. Or a wild oscillation. Or hangs a sharp turn so it can go for a swim in the ocean. The range safety officer hits the self-destruct button producing a really cool ka-bloom!

Today it is an astounding rarity that a rocket launch does not put the payload into the exact orbit at the exact second planned.

Human space travel is boringly routine.

Check out what rocket launches look at the dawn of the space age:

This one is copyright 1960. The newsreel starts with a successful coffin launch of a cool-looking Bomarc interceptor. Second is a spectacular failure. Third launch is on a horizontal intercept angle – – did a nose over faceplant in about 200 feet.



A Titan I that didn’t get off the pad. Oh yeah, remember the Mercury capsules were launched on top of a Titan booster:



An Atlas that went boom around the time the Mercury astronauts were in training:



Launches in this sequence appear to be later, like maybe early ‘60s. There’s a mixture of successes and failures. At about seven minutes, one that looks like a Titan barely clears the support tower before hanging a tight U-turn and returning directly to the launchpad.



Looking at those robots fall down is quite entertaining. So is looking at those ancient missile failures.

Space travel is a bore today. Won’t be long before autonomous robots working in disaster zones are too.

P.S. Yes, I know I’m talking rockets and missiles interchangeably, as if they were the same thing.

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