Again in November, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano made history by taking command of a rover from the Worldwide House Station (ISS). As a part of the Analog-1 experiments, this feat was made doable due to a “house web” command infrastructure and a force-feedback management setup. This allowed Parmitano to remotely function a rover 10,000 km (6,200 mi) away whereas orbiting Earth at a velocity of eight km/s (28,800 km/h; 17,900 mph).
These experiments, that are a part of the ESA’s Multi-Purpose End-To-End Robotic Operation Network (METERON) program, passed off in a hangar at Valkenburg within the Netherlands – close to the ESA’s European Science Research and Technology Center (ESTEC). The primary take a look at, which occurred on Nov. 18th, concerned Parmitano guiding the rover via an impediment course designed to feel and look just like the floor of the Moon.
The checks validated the subtle management community in addition to the controls, which give astronauts with the sense of contact. For the second take a look at, which passed off on Nov. 25th, concerned the rover navigating via a full-on simulated lunar atmosphere, selecting up and gathering rock samples. This take a look at assessed the flexibility of a remotely-operated rover to conduct geological surveys on alien worlds.
As ESA engineer Kjetil Wormnes, who’s main the Analog-1 take a look at marketing campaign, mentioned in a current ESA press release:
“Think about the robotic as Luca’s avatar on Earth, offering him with each imaginative and prescient and contact. It was geared up with two cameras – one within the palm of its hand, the opposite in a manoeuvrable arm – to let Luca and the remotely-located scientists observe the atmosphere and get a close-up on the rocks.”
Utilizing the Sigma 7 force-feedback gadget (which supplies the consumer six levels of freedom) and a pair of displays, Parmitano guided the rover via slender pathways to succeed in three totally different sampling websites and choose rocks for evaluation. All of the whereas, a group fo geological consultants primarily based on the European Astronaut Center (EAC) in Cologne, Germany, was involved with him and suggested him on which rocks had been promising analysis targets.
This was the primary time that this form of expertise has been used on the ISS to manage a robotic on the bottom. It additionally constructed on a earlier venture carried out by the ESA designed to familiarize astronauts with geological research. As Jessica Grenouilleau, METERON venture lead at ESA’s Exploration Programs Group, indicated:
“We benefitted from Luca’s earlier coaching via our Pangaea program, giving astronauts sensible expertise in geology. It helped tremendously in having an environment friendly dialogue between the crew and the scientists.”
The 2-way management hyperlink between the rover and the ISS was made doable due to communication satellites positioned in geostationary orbit (GSO). These linked Parmitano to the EAC and on to the hangar the place the take a look at passed off, and with a latency (or time lag) of simply zero.eight seconds. Due to the revolutionary interface, Luca was capable of really feel the robotic touching the bottom or selecting up a rock.
The METERON and software program utilized in these experiments was developed by the ESA’s Human Robot Interaction Laboratory, situated in Noordwijk, The Netherlands. Assist was offered by the German Aerospace Heart’s (DLR) Institute for Robotics and Mechatronics, which was liable for integrating the management software program and optimizing the system’s suggestions to take into consideration the time delay.
ESA robotic engineer Thomas Krueger, who heads the HRI Lab, explains:
“For this exploration situation, involving a comparatively quick time delay, we’ve been capable of mix the relative benefits of people and robots: a human for his or her potential to take care of complicated and unstructured environments and choice making, and a dexterous robotic ready to deal with harsh environments and to exactly execute its operator’s instructions.
“By enhancing the operator expertise with force-feedback and intuitive controls we will make beforehand not possible robotic management duties possible, and open up new strategies of exploring house. We are actually eager on analysing the info and suggestions from Luca to see the small print of how he carried out, and discover out the place we will enhance and put together future exploration plans.”
The Analog-1 experiments are the most recent in a sequence of progressively tougher METERON human-robot take a look at campaigns involving the ISS. The primary force-feedback take a look at (which concerned one-degree of freedom) passed off again in 2015 as a part of the Haptics-1 experiment. This was adopted in 2016 by the DLR’s Kontur-2 two-degrees of freedom experiment. All of those culminated in these newest, six-degrees of freedom experiments.
The following step will happen someday subsequent yr and can contain an outside simulation in a Moon-like atmosphere (situated TBD in the intervening time). For this section of testing, the rover will acquire and study native rocks samples in a situation designed to resemble a full lunar floor mission as carefully as doable.
When robotic explorers are despatched to the Moon and Mars within the close to future, METERON will let astronauts management them from orbital habitats – such because the Lunar Gateway and the Mars Base Camp – reasonably than having to ship indicators all the best way from Earth. The expertise can even enable for the exploration of inaccessible or probably harmful environments astronauts are usually not capable of attain.
Remember to try this video of the most recent Analog-1 take a look at as nicely, courtesy of the ESA:
Additional Studying: ESA