Astronaut Will Try to Control an Earth Rover from Space Next Week

Tuesday, 01 September 2015 - 10:50AM
Technology
Robotics
ESA
Tuesday, 01 September 2015 - 10:50AM
Astronaut Will Try to Control an Earth Rover from Space Next Week
Humans have been remotely controlling rovers in outer space for many years, but now, we are attempting to turn the tables and reach down to Earth from space. ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen will soon conduct a test with the Interact Centaur rover, an Earth-bound machine that can be controlled from orbit.

The Interact Centaur rover, developed by ESA researchers, is a 4x4 foot robot with extremely force-sensitive arms that afford it a submillimeter level of precision. Current rover systems, which use video feedback, have not been able to achieve this level of precision for tasks, mostly because visual information isn't very important. In fact, principal investigator André Schiele claims that most of the tasks performed by these rovers can be done while the human operators' eyes are closed.

Opening quote
"When we humans have to perform precision operations, for instance simply inserting our key into the lock of our door, we are relying largely on our feeling of tactile and force receptors in the hand and arms – not on eyesight," Schiele said in an ESA statement.
Closing quote


This new rover incorporates haptic feedback, or force feedback, which detects any resistance met by the rover's sensors. As a result, the human operator can actually feel what he or she is doing as the robot completes a task, with only a slight lag.

Opening quote
"Without haptic feedback, the operator of a robot arm or rover must be very careful not to damage something if the robot is in contact with its environment. As a result, a simple task in space often takes a very long time. Moreover, the tactile sensation derived from any task contains important information about the geometric relationship of the objects involved and therefore allows to execute tasks more intuitively and thus significantly faster."
Closing quote


Morgensen is scheduled to arrive on the ISS tomorrow, September 2, and to conduct his first test of the technology on September 7. If all goes according to plan, he will remotely drive it around the grounds of ESA's ESTEC technical centre in the Netherlands from 250 miles in space. If the technology proves to be effective, it could serve to remotely pilot machines to perform tasks in extremely remote locations, such as the Arctic or in deep ocean.

Via Business Insider.
Science
Space
Technology
Robotics
ESA

Load Comments