NASA is constantly working on projects that will eventually be useful in the outer space and on alien planets, and it looks like they are going there with the help of Linux and Ubuntu.
It's not a secret that most of the scientific community likes and uses open source software. The reasons for this choice are numerous, but the bottom line is that wherever you see any kind of scientific endeavor, either at CERN, the Fermi Laboratories, or even NASA, it's always powered by open source software.
A few engineers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center are working on some robots that will one day be used to roam the surface of other planets and moons. They are autonomous and they are designed to look for and gather various resources, among other tasks.
“Building on the research conducted at the University of New Mexico, the engineers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida have been developing programs that tell small, wheeled robots to go out in different directions and randomly search an area for a particular material.”
“For these tests that are meant only to prove the software works and the concept is worthwhile, the robots are not searching for anything more than barcoded pieces of paper. In the future though, robots working around an asteroid or on the moon or Mars would be equipped to scan the soil for infinitely valuable water-ice or other resources that can be turned into rocket fuel or breathable air for astronauts,” reads the information on NASA's website.
For now, the robots (which are called swarmies) only patrol the surroundings of the NASA space center in Florida, but it looks like the engineers are controlling and programming them with the help of a Linux distribution called Ubuntu.
From the looks of it, the Linux distribution being used is Ubuntu 12.04 and it's a pretty basic installation. You can still see the icon from Ubuntu One (the file services associated with this have been discontinued) and Ubuntu Software Center. The people who are using them didn't go through all the trouble of customizing the desktop.
Most of the Linux users see their machines as simple instruments for their daily work and fun, but the Linux distributions are much more powerful than that. It's actually being used to power the research and the efforts of a team that thinks about the exploration of alien planets. If this alone doesn't show just how versatile Linux OSes are, nothing will.