Advancements in robotics are continually taking place in the fields of space exploration, health care, public safety, entertainment, defense, and more. These machines -- some fully autonomous, some requiring human input -- extend our grasp, enhance our capabilities, and travel as our surrogates to places too dangerous for us to go. NASA currently has dozens of robotic missions underway, with satellites now in orbit around our moon and four planets -- and two more on the way to Ceres and Pluto. Gathered here are recent images of robotic technology at the beginning of the 21st century.
Resembling a headless horse, a robotic Legged Squad Support System (LS3) developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency navigates terrain during a demonstration at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Fort Myer, Virginia, on September 10, 2012. The LS3 is being developed for use by the U.S. military to carry heavy loads and equipment over a variety of terrain.
(USMC/Sgt. Mallory S. VanderSchans)
A free-swimming robot submarine maneuvers beneath sea ice in Eastern Antarctica. Scientists have produced the first three dimensional map of the surface beneath Antarctic sea ice, helping them better understand the impact of climate change on Antarctica. The team of scientists from eight countries used a robot submarine to chart a frozen and inverted world of mountains and valleys, allowing accurate measurements of the crucial thickness of Antarctic sea ice.
(Reuters/Australian Antarctic Division)
French engineer Christophe Millot stands with his Wall-Ye prototype, a robot designed to prune vines, in the Pouilly Fuisse vineyard during a press presentation near Macon, France, on October 12, 2012. The 50 by 60 centimeter robot, with four wheels and two metal arms, has six web cameras and a GPS and can roll between grapevines, test the soil and check the grapes. With a little more training, Wall-Ye will be able to prune up to 600 vines per day, says his inventor, who has been working on the project for the past three years.
Sophie Morgan walks with the aid of "Rex", a Robotic Exoskeleton at the Welcome Trust on September 19, 2012 in London, England. The system allows wheelchair users including fully paralyzed people, to stand upright and walk independently. Sophie was paralyzed from the breast bone down in 2003 following a car accident.
(Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
On Mars, NASA's Curiosity rover images itself -- this image shows the rover's Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS), with the Martian landscape in the background. The image was taken by Curiosity's Mast Camera on the 32nd Martian day, or sol, of operations on the surface (September 7, 2012). APXS can be seen in the middle of the picture. This image let researchers know that the APXS instrument had not become caked with dust during Curiosity's dusty landing. Scientists enhanced the color in this version to show the Martian scene as it would appear under the lighting conditions we have on Earth, which helps in analyzing the terrain.
A panoramic view of distant Martian hills to the northeast, and rocky terrain in the foreground, seen by NASA's Curiosity rover on sol 50 of its journey. More of this scene here.
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or drone, made by the French company Fly-n-Sense, flies over Mont-de-Marsan, France, on July 12, 2012. French firefighters were testing it in the Landes forest region as an innovative forest surveillance system which will enable a real-time monitoring of fire outbreaks.
(Pierre Andriew/AFP/Getty Images)
A closeup of Saturn's small moon named Phoebe, recorded by NASA's Cassini orbiter. Images like this one, showing bright wispy streaks thought to be ice revealed by subsidence of crater walls, are leading to the view that Phoebe is an icy-rich body overlain with a thin layer of dark material. This week also marks the fifteen-year anniversary of Cassini's launch, back in 1997.
(NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)
This image from video made available by the Vandenberg Air Force Base shows the X-37B unmanned spacecraft landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base, on June 16, 2012. The spacecraft, which was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in March 2011, conducted in-orbit experiments during a 15-month clandestine mission, officials said. It was the second such autonomous landing at the base.
(AP Photo/Vandenberg Air Force Base)
A 49-year-old electric bike mechanic who identified himself only as Wu welds a component to fit onto his newly-made robot at his repair shop in Shenyang, Liaoning province, China, on June 25, 2012. Wu spent over 10 days to make this nearly two-meter high robot using parts from abandoned electric bikes. The robot, which is able to walk and pump up tires by itself, is still under modification, according to local media.
The new Boeing Phantom Eye unmanned drone, designed to stay airborne for days, travels on its first autonomous flight at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on June 1, 2012. The 28-minute flight began at 6:22 a.m. PDT as the liquid-hydrogen powered aircraft lifted off its launch cart. Phantom Eye climbed to an altitude of 4,080 feet and reached a cruising speed of 62 knots.
(AP Photo/Boeing, Robert Ferguson)
U.S. Army Spc. Andrew B. Clement, an explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to 129th EOD, attached to 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Task Force Bronco, uses an Xbox controller and a computer viewfinder to maneuver an EOD robot at Combat Outpost Honaker-Miracle in eastern Afghanistan's Kunar province, on August 1, 2012.
(U.S. Army/Sgt. 1st Class Mark Burrell)
Lauri Mihkels from the technical support team of the Estonian company Fits.me adjusts a shape-shifting robotic mannequin on March 27, 2012 at offices in Tallinn. Fashion fans have one more reason to swap brick-and-mortar shops for online retailers after an Estonian company has come up with a technology allowing them to virtually try their clothes on. Using shape-shifting robotic mannequins, who can grow from slim to muscular in moments, and a technology invented by Estonian universities, the Fits.me company also spares online shops from heaps of returned goods. The robots can take on about 100,000 different body shapes, but only about 2,000 are being used for commercial purposes.
(Priit Simson/AFP/Getty Images)
A large beetle-shaped robot "Kabutom RX-03", produced by a Japanese engineer Hitoshi Takahashi is displayed before public at the Tsukuba Festival at Tsukuba city, Tokyo, on August 26, 2012. The Kabutom, 11-meters in length and weighing 17-tons, can walk with its six legs, powered by diesel engines and can blow smoke from its nose.
(Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images)
Defense contractor Textron Inc. demonstrates what it calls its Common Unmanned Surface Vessel (CUSV) technology at the company's New Orleans shipyard, on April 12, 2012. Technology that sent unmanned aircraft over warzones in Iraq and Afghanistan soon could be steering unstaffed boats for such dangerous tasks as minesweeping, submarine detection, intelligence gathering and approaching hostile vessels.
(AP Photo/Textron, Inc.)
A soft-bodied robot navigates, from top to bottom, an obstacle course. Harvard University researchers built this flexible prototype robot that can crawl and move in a wavelike motion. Unlike rigid robots, soft robots can be used to squeeze into tight spaces.
(AP Photo/Harvard University, Robert Shepherd)
Alvin Kabwama, one of the designers of a prototype robot that can detect and disarm Improvised Explosive Devices attempts to switch it on at Makerere University's College of Engineering, Design Art and Telecommunication in Kampala, Uganda, on June 6, 2012. The robot is remotely controlled by a computer and can navigate a flat surface of up to a 20m radius. The development comes in the wake of continuous terrorist threats as a result of the country's contribution of forces to the African Union peace keeping mission in Somalia.
Quadriplegic research subject Tim Hemmes operates a mechanical prosthetic arm with Katie Schaffer during a testing sessions at a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center research facility in Pittsburgh. Hemmes had a chip implanted on the surface of his brain that reads his intention to move his paralyzed arm and sends that instruction instead to an advanced bionic arm. The goal is to create mind-controlled prosthetics to restore some independence to the paralyzed.
(AP Photo/University of Pittsburgh Medical Center)
Akie Koh, a stylist from Japan, makes final preparations on the face of Geminoid F, a female robot, in Hong Kong, on March 28, 2012. The Geminoid F robot, developed by Ishiguro Laboratory in Osaka University and ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories, will be on display with other robots at City Plaza's "Robots in Motion 2012" exhibition from March 29 to April 15.
(Antony Dickson/AFP/Getty Images)
A robot named "Treebot", developed by the Chinese University of Hong Kong, climbs up a tree in Hong Kong, on June 20, 2011. Treebot has two grippers that dig into bark and allow the device to wriggle up a tree like a caterpillar. It weighs less than 1 kg (2.2 lbs), can carry a camera and is designed to climb trees in place of humans, to perform health checks, reported the South China Morning Post.
Octavia, a mobile, dexterous, social (MDS) robot, puts out a fire in the prototyping high bay of the just-opened Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. The LASR facility will integrate science and technology components into research prototype systems and will become the nerve center for basic research that supports autonomous systems research for the Navy and Marine Corps.
(U.S> navy/John Williams)
Two Soft Octopus-like Robot arms, photographed at the Institute of Biorobotics of the Italian University Sant'Anna School in Pisa, on July 17, 2012. The Graduate School Sant'Anna of Pisa (SSSA), which includes six research institutes, has developed two prototype bionic arms, a robot capable of overcoming obstacles, another that recycles garbage, and one that has the form of an octopus.
(Fabio Muzzi/AFP/Getty Images)
The robot "Obelix" runs through Freiburg city center, on August 21, 2012. The machine, starting 9:45 in the morning at the University of Freiburg, found its way independently to a plaza in the center of Freiburg, about four kilometers away. Obelix made the journey, avoiding people and obstacles, in about 100 minutes.
(AP Photo/Daniel Kopatsch)