Luca Parmitano takes the wheel and exams a cell from the area.

In November, ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano stepped into historical past taking command of a rover of the Worldwide House Station (ISS). As a part of the Analog-1 experiments, this feat was made potential by a "House Web" management infrastructure and a power suggestions management configuration. This allowed Parmitano to remotely function a rover at a pace of eight km / s (28,800 km / h; 17,900 mph) whereas orbiting the Earth.

These experiments, that are a part of ESA's versatile end-to-end robotic operation community (METERON) program, occurred in a hangar in Valkenburg, The Netherlands, close to the European Middle for Scientific Analysis and Expertise of ESA (ESTEC). ). The primary take a look at, which occurred on November 18th, concerned Parmitano guiding the rover by means of an impediment course designed to resemble the floor of the Moon.

The exams validated the delicate management community and the controls that present astronauts with a way of contact. For the second take a look at, which occurred on November 25, the rover went by means of a simulated lunar atmosphere, collected and sampled rock samples. This take a look at allowed to guage the power of a remotely managed cell to conduct geological research on extraterrestrial worlds.

Closeup of Analog-1 rover displaying his gripper. Credit score: ESA / Porter

As said by Kjetil Wormnes, ESA engineer, who runs the take a look at marketing campaign on Analog-1, mentioned in a current ESA press launch :

"Think about the robotic as Luca's avatar on Earth, offering him with imaginative and prescient and contact. It was outfitted with two cameras – one within the palm of the hand, the opposite in a useful arm – to permit Luca and distant scientists to watch the atmosphere and to convey nearer to the rocks. "

Utilizing the Sigma 7 power suggestions machine (which supplies six levels of freedom to the person) and a pair of screens, Parmitano guided the rover by means of slender paths to to succeed in three completely different sampling websites and choose the rocks to be analyzed. In the meantime, a crew of geology specialists based mostly on the European Astronaut Middle (EAC) in Cologne, Germany, was involved with him and knowledgeable him of the rocks that had been promising analysis targets.

This was the primary time the sort of know-how was used on the ISS to manage a floor robotic. It additionally builds on an earlier ESA venture to familiarize astronauts with geological research. As Jessica Grenouilleau, Challenge Chief METERON at ESA's Exploration Methods Group, mentioned:

"We benefited from Luca's earlier coaching as a part of our Pangea program, offering astronauts with hands-on expertise in geology. This helped immensely to have an efficient dialogue between the crew and the scientists. "

The Sigma 7 power suggestions management machine being examined on the CAE. Credit score: ESA

The bidirectional command hyperlink between the cell and the ISS has been made potential because of communication satellites positioned in geostationary orbit (GSO). These linked Parmitano to the CAE and the hangar the place the take a look at occurred, with latency (or time lag) of solely zero.eight seconds. Due to the revolutionary interface, Luca might 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 Human Robotic Interplay Laboratory, situated in Noordwijk, The Netherlands. The Institute for Robotics and Mechatronics on the German Aerospace Middle (DLR), which was answerable for integrating management software program and optimizing system suggestions, additionally took this help under consideration.

Thomas Krueger, Robotics Engineer at ESA, who heads the HRI lab, explains:

"For this comparatively short-lived exploration situation, we had been in a position to mix the relative benefits of people and robots: a human for its potential to deal with advanced environments and decision-making. unstructured, and a robotic in a position to deal with harsh environments and to precisely execute the instructions of its operator.

"By enhancing the operator's expertise with power suggestions and intuitive controls, it’s potential to carry out robotic management duties till then unimaginable, and Open new methods to discover the area. We now wish to analyze Luca's knowledge and suggestions to know intimately its efficiency and decide areas by which we are able to enhance and put together our future exploration tasks. "

Parmitano controlling the rover of the ISS. Credit score: ESA

Analog-1 experiments are the newest in a collection of more and more difficult METERON man-robot take a look at campaigns involving the ISS. The primary power suggestions take a look at (involving a level of freedom) occurred in 2015 as a part of the Haptics-1 experiment. This was adopted in 2016 by the Kontur-2 experiment with two levels of freedom of DLR. All these components have resulted in these final experiments with six levels of freedom.

The subsequent step will happen subsequent yr and can encompass an out of doors simulation in an atmosphere much like that of the Moon (situated to be decided for the second). For this take a look at section, the rover will gather and study native rock samples in a situation designed to resemble as a lot as potential an entire mission on the floor of the moon.

When robotic explorers will probably be despatched to the Moon and Mars within the close to future, METERON will permit astronauts to manage them from orbital habitats – such because the Moon Gate and Mars Base Camp – slightly than having to ship indicators from the Earth. The know-how may even discover inaccessible or probably harmful environments that astronauts can’t attain.

You should definitely additionally watch this video of the newest take a look at of Analog-1, courtesy of ESA:

Additional studying: ESA

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