JY Wong Laboratory for Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial Mobility, Guidance and Control

Students and researchers of Carleton’s JY Wong Laboratory for Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial Mobility, Guidance and Control are contributing to leading research on space robotics. Their goal is to incorporate the workings of the cerebellum into robot arms for fixing satellites in space; the cerebellum is the part of the brain responsible for fine motor control. By replicating the activity of the cerebellum, Carleton researchers are gaining an understanding of how to create robust, flexible control systems.

One of the lab’s top innovations – the “Kapvik” Mars rover – was designed and built at Carleton in collaboration with several partners with Carleton as the technical lead institution. The $2.3 million dollar micro-rover created for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is one of only a handful of operational rovers at the agency and is currently being used by Carleton researchers to test new software control systems. Due to its ability to explore other planets, specifically Mars and the moon, Kapvik was named after the Inuit word for wolverine for its small but aggressive capabilities. The Kapvik’s main purpose is to find and collect scientific samples on other planets.


New research on the rover examines how to turn the rover into an autonomous robot scientist – able to do things entirely on its own. This increase in Kapvik’s awareness will give it the ability to distinguish differences in rocks it encounters so the rover can decipher between an unimportant rock and one that is totally new and interesting. This research extends to Carleton’s Department of Earth Sciences as geological samples from space are found and analyzed.

These researchers are now striking out into new territory as they study how to build self-replicating machines. In essence, these are intelligent 3D printers that can find and treat metals and materials on other planets in such a way that they are able to construct copies of themselves without the intervention of people. These autonomous machines will have the ability to do tasks that are currently not possible and even contribute to our economy on Earth.

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Daily Planet feature on Carleton University and the Kapvik rover, 2012.


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