Yuang (Thomas) Li '22, a IV Former from Mountain House, California, has published an article in IEEE Xplore, the journal of the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers. Entitled "Enabling Commercial Autonomous Robotic Space Explorers," the piece is an in-depth theoretical analysis of the possibilities regarding advance robotic space missions.
Li has always been interested in robotics. "There are many applications in the field," he says, "but I have felt that I could make the greatest impact in space robotics." Prior to arriving at St. Mark's, Li had been a project intern under the mentorship of Dr. Shaoshan Liu, a pioneer in the field of next-generation robotic solutions. Li has also been active in the St. Mark's robotics program throughout his time at St. Mark's.
"Space technology is truly thrilling," declares Li. "Robotics is such an impactful component of space technology because it enables so much more to happen in the field of space exploration." He notes that "without robots, exploration in space is limited. It is not cost-effective or feasible to go into space exclusively with human explorers."
Li states that "it is much less risky to use robots, at least initially. Using robots for space exploration expands the human activity horizon. It enables the creation of basic infrastructure on other planets. Space explorer robots can safely lay the foundation for subsequent exploration."
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is a professional association for electronic engineering and electrical engineering. Li's article, under the guidance of Dr. Liu, appears in the January/February 2020 issue of IEEE Xplore.
"I spent a lot of time researching current space technologies," says Li. "I wanted to organize something that everyone could read—it's important to share the knowledge we've gained so far. The writing of the article in and of itself helped me identify the challenges still faced in the development of space exploration robotics, so I can further advance my own research."
"It's an impressive undertaking," says faculty member Chris Roche, Li's advisor and the facilitator of the School's robotics program. "We are so glad to have Thomas on the robotics team. He's very precise and thorough and you can rely on him to get the job done."
Roche also points out that "Thomas has entrepreneurial ideas. That helps him envision putting science to work commercially, as in his article. He's looking for ways to further space exploration commercially and his ideas and theories are steps to achieve this."
Li is both optimistic and realistic about the timetable for the practical success of his theoretical analysis. "My projections are based on the progress and development made so far—and development is an accelerating exponential process that means with each success there's more to build onto and off of. Within three decades of the moon landing, we were sending robots to Mars, and two decades beyond that we're now where we are. So to achieve the vision of commercial autonomous robotic space explorers, another 20 years."