This year there have been a rising number of experiments of controlling robots from a large distance. One prominent example is of the ambitious plans of ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano guiding a robot from Holland and the German engineers directing and controlling a rover in Canada.
Scientists are now creating new environment and avenues for the development of more robust human-robot partnerships. ESA’s exploration strategy mainly focuses on precisely developing such relationships. One of the experiments involve preparing for situations where robot scouts are sent out before human missions. Astronauts control these robotic scouts in the orbit.
The objective of Meteron project is to develop know-how and the technology required to control the rovers in extreme conditions. It tries to map all possible aspects of the project from surface operations to user interface, to communication. In addition, it tries to connect the robots and the astronauts by the sense of touch.
Learning from the Past Experiences
The first ever experiment of such kind took place in 2012 when the NASA astronaut Sunita Williams guided a LEGO rover in Germany. The experiment involved testing the newly invented concept of ‘space internet’ resulting in controlling the rover from the space orbit. Unsurprisingly, this communication is not easy to establish as the signals from the International Space Station travel a distance of nearly 144,400 km.
In November 2019, the Meteron project will finally be able to put all the components together when the ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano will operate the Interact rover. Moreover, he will be controlling the rover in the Netherlands from the International Space Station.
The next level of the experiment called Analog-1 will combine all the expertise and learnings from the last decade. This will see the astronaut to operate a rover from the orbit to collect some samples of a lunar rock. Luca will receive assistance by team of scientists sitting at the research center in Germany.