During the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, Soviet authorities tried to spare human workers from the harsh conditions by experimenting with a number of bizarre and oddly innovative remote-controlled devices. These robotic machines are now on display at an open air museum near the site.

Just looking at these clunky old things you can immediately tell that they weren't up to the task. Removing the contaminated debris required more skill than these devices could offer, forcing the Soviets to send in workers (i.e. soldiers) to do the job. During the clean-up, each person could only afford to spend a maximum of 40 seconds inside or near the facility. Many of them died as a consequence of the exposure or later contracted cancer.

This thing looks like it belongs on the moon, but it's the STR-1 robot. It was placed on the roof of the Chernobyl plant and used to clear radioactive elements of the destroyed reactor. Gamma-ray background radiation reached 3,000 roentgens per hour at times — and in some areas as much as 10,000 roentgens per hour.

Called Mobot, this device was designed at Moscow State University. It was also used to clear debris off the roof.

Some robots were more effective than others. This one probably not so much.

The radio-controlled amphibious bulldozer Komatsu D-355W could work at the bottom of the sea, but it could not withstand high doses of radiation and quickly broke down.

Likewise, the German-built MF-2 and MF-3 bots did not fare well under such harsh conditions.

When in doubt, send in the tanks!

As an aside, remote-controlled devices were used as early as World War II.

[Source: English Russia]