An ESA astronaut will remotely control a prototype lunar rover from orbit as part of a full test this week,media reported. On November 18, 2019, Luca Parmitano took a half-hour remote control of the Analog-1 rover from the International Space Station (ISS), 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth, allowing it to bypass the Dutch barrier route. This is a preliminary systematic test of the technology that could one day be used for long-range exploration of the moon and Mars.
At current levels of technology, there are only two strategies to choose from for lunar and planetary mission planners. On the one hand, they can send astronauts to the ground, or they can send robotic explorers. The problem is that both approaches have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Astronauts are smarter and more flexible than robots when dealing with missions, but sending them to the surface of the moon or Mars is extremely dangerous and expensive. Robots, on the other hand, are much cheaper and safer, but it can take weeks to complete what humans can do in minutes.
Analog-1 is a combination of the advantages of both approaches. Currently, missions to the moon and beyond must be almost entirely autonomous, because the time difference is too large to be directly controlled. Commands sent to the rover will take a second and a half, while orders sent to Mars will take several minutes.
THE METHOD IS BEING TESTED BY ESA BY SENDING A ROBOTIC ROVER FROM AN ORBITING SPACECRAFT OR GROUND-BASED BASE, WHERE ASTRONAUTS CAN CONTROL IT DIRECTLY WITH A SMALL DELAY. To solve this problem, the Analog-1 system’s control system has a joystick with six degrees of freedom that contains forced feedback, so that the human controller can feel directly the pressure on, for example, on the robotic arm, and react immediately.
“Even on the moon, it takes hours to prepare an astronaut for a mission,” said Jessica Grenouilleau, head of the Meteron project at ESA’s exploration systems group. If astronauts can control nearby robots, they can achieve more goals in terms of the safety and comfort of their bases or orbiting spacecraft. The first tests showed excellent adaptability between astronauts and robotic systems, making this combination better in all missions. “
The initial test was a simple, planned list of actions, but the full test, scheduled to begin on November 25 (11:00 a.m. CET) (10:00 GMT), will allow Parmitano to remotely control the rover at the European Astronaut Center in Cologne, Germany. Move the rover to three locations.