How Are Robots Used In Space Exploration?

Space is a vast and mysterious place, and there is so much that we don’t understand about what exists past our atmosphere.

While getting to space is challenging enough already, there are many limitations that astronauts face when they leave Earth.

This makes exploring space impossible for humans, as it is too dangerous and unsustainable in the long term.

Luckily, robots face no such limitations. Yes, you heard that right. While space robots might seem straight out of a sci-fi movie, robots have been used in space exploration for over half a century. These robots might not look like ones from pop culture, but they are still incredibly interesting and are great for exploring space.

So just how are robots used in space exploration? Don’t worry – this article has got you covered. Not only will we take you through how robots are used to explore space, but we’ll also take a look at some of the different types of robots in space.

Robots In Space

As mentioned above, using robots for space exploration isn’t a recent concept. The first robot in space, Sputnik 1, was launched in 1957. Since then, improvements in technology and the progression of time have led to massive leaps in what space robots are capable of.

Most robots are used for space exploration by taking measurements and samples of planets and moons, or traveling in environments that humans couldn’t survive in. Robots differ from the standard machines found in space through their independence.

While some robots can be controlled manually through a controller or computer, space robots can function independently of a human. 

This makes them invaluable for exploring the far reaches of space. Space robots can traverse and analyze astronomical bodies on their own while automatically feeding data back to Earth, or continuously travel further into interstellar space (such as the Voyager satellites).

The uses for space robots are limitless, but let’s take a closer look at what makes robots so great for exploring space.

How Are Robots Used To Explore Space?

Space robots are used for a vast array of things. From exploring the far reaches of deep space to repairing the ISS, robots are put to work in a variety of different roles.

There are several different types of robots that are used for space exploration, and are mostly used to gather information about what the universe beyond our planet is like.

Most robust are sent into space either to explore and analyze planets, moons, and other astronomical objects, or to explore the outer reaches of our solar system and beyond.

Robots are capable of much more than humans and are a much more sustainable and effective way of exploring space. Robots don’t need sustenance or sleep, and are much better equipped to withstand the harsh environments of space.

Without the need for food or water, and with the ability to survive intense temperatures, climates, and radiation, robots are able to stay in use for decades without any issues.

What Different Purposes Do Robots Have For Space Exploration?

Many different types of robots are used for exploring space, each with their own design and purpose. These range from general uses to incredibly specific and specialized robots that only really serve one purpose. Here are a few examples of what space robots can be used for.


Rovers are the most common form of space robot, and are mainly used to explore the surface of planets, moons, and asteroids. Rovers look very similar to robots used on Earth, particularly bomb disposal robots (although they are much larger). 

Robots serve several purposes, from gathering samples to taking measurements of a planet’s climate. Rovers are incredibly useful for a multitude of reasons. Because they’re robotic, they aren’t as affected by harsh temperatures or radiation and don’t need to worry about the lack of air in a vacuum. 

Rovers also don’t need to worry about food, water, or rest. Many rovers are equipped with solar panels to keep them powered, keeping them going for years on end.


Robots don’t always need to land to be useful. Orbital satellites go around the surface of a planet or moon to take measurements and transmit data. 

Many satellites orbit the Earth, with most of them used for communication and broadcasting purposes. However, the Earth isn’t the only planet with satellites.

Most satellites are robotic and operate independently, although many can still be controlled remotely when needed. Satellites can be used to map and analyze the surface of a planet, moon, or asteroid from above and without the need to land. 

Whether tracking weather systems on Earth or mapping the surface of Mars, satellites are a great use for robots in space.


The RMS, or Remote Manipulator System, is a type of robot that works hand in hand with astronauts – literally. The RMS is a robotic arm that replicates movements of the human arm. It functions like an arm and then some, with fully rotating joints and flexible hinges.

The RMS is used for jobs that humans can’t handle, including remote assembly outside the ISS, or moving and positioning large objects such as satellites. It can be controlled by a computer, or manually operated by an astronaut.


Deep space probes are a class of robots that are launched into space without the intention of landing on a planet. Probes can be used to gather information on its surroundings, or even to push exploration past the limits of our galaxy.

Some of the most famous deep space probes are Voyager 1 and its twin Voyager 2, which were launched into space in 1977 to explore various planets and moons in the solar system with the long-term goal of leaving it entirely.

Since then, both probes have left the solar system, entered interstellar space, and continue to transmit data back to Earth. Voyager 1 was the first man-made object to leave the solar system, and is the furthest man-made object from Earth.

Measurement Tools

These aren’t what you might typically associate with the word ‘robot’, and are more similar to regular tools for measuring the conditions and climate of an area. However, these robots can be controlled remotely or left to gather information independently, where it is then automatically transmitted back to Earth.

Most of these robots are highly specialized and typically use various instruments and cameras to measure the conditions of planets, asteroids, and moons. They can measure anything from wind speed to radiation levels to temperature; however, most of these robots will only gather information on one detail.

Final Thoughts 

So now you know a little more about how robots are used in space exploration. From rovers traveling across the surface of Mars to probes that have left our solar system, there is no end to the incredible things space robots can accomplish.

By using robots to explore space, we have been able to learn so much more about our universe and what it contains. Because of their longevity, functionality, and independence, robots allow us to find out anything from Earth’s weather to the temperature of Saturn.

While robots are already being put to good use in space exploration, there’s no telling what the future holds for robots in space!

Gordon Watts