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Astronaut successfully pilots Earth-bound lunar rover from space

The ESA’s Analog-1 space rover (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) has successfully piloted a prototype lunar rover down here on Earth.

The test was carried out this week with ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano taking the helm of the Analog-1 rover.

He navigated the rover around an obstacle course in the Netherlands for half an hour. One day, it is hoped that astronauts will be able to remotely pilot these rovers on the moon’s surface.

‘We are developing systems for astronauts to work hand-in-hand with robots, to achieve much more than they could on their own’ explained ESA’s project manager Kjetil Wormnes.

‘A rover on Mars would have taken weeks to do the same work Luca and the Analog-1 rover did in half an hour.’

Astronaut Luca Parmitano gives a thumbs up from the ISS (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Although autonomous robots can be used for space exploration, they will never be as accurate as human-controlled machines.

The Analog-1 rover is equipped with force feedback so astronauts can feel what the robot feels and adjust grip accordingly on a joystick that allows for six degrees of motion.

This rover could one day be exploring the surface of the moon or Mars (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

ESA’s exploration strategy for the Analog-1 foresees astronauts controlling robots from orbit around the moon or Mars or from inside a planetary base.

‘Even on the Moon preparing an astronaut for a sortie takes hours just to get into a suit and prepare the airlock,’ commented Jessica Grenouilleau, the Meteron project lead at ESA’s Exploration Systems Group.

The rover was driven for half an hour from the ISS (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

‘By giving astronauts the possibility to control the robots nearby in the safety and comfort of their base or orbital spacecraft, much more can be achieved.

‘This first test indicates an excellent adaptation between the crew and the robotic system, making this combination better at a wide range of tasks.’


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