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Human Exploration Telerobotics Project Conducts Communications Test Between ISS and Ames Marscape

The Human Exploration Surface Telerobotics project conducted a communications test between a laptop onboard the International Space Station (ISS) and a K10 rover in the Marscape at NASA Ames Research Center on Monday, January 28th. The test verified connectivity between ISS and the rover for a summer 2013 experiment, when an ISS crew member will control a rover in the Marscape in a simulation of the Lunar Farside (L2) mission scenario. No crew was involved in the communications test.

BACKGROUND: The Human Exploration Telerobotics (HET) project demonstrates how telerobotics – robots remotely operated by astronauts or ground controllers – can be used to perform a variety of routine, highly repetitive, dangerous, or long-duration tasks. The primary goal of HET is to improve NASA’s understanding of the requirements, benefits, limitations, costs, and risks of integrating telerobotics into future deep-space exploration missions. When humans return to the Moon, crews will initially be on the surface less than 10% of the time. Robots can perform work even when humans are not present, including reconnaissance, survey, and inspection.

The Lunar Farside (L2) mission will investigate regions dramatically different than those looked at by Apollo and will include the South Pole-Aitken basin – possibly the largest, deepest, and oldest impact basin in the inner solar system. The far side of the Moon always faces away from Earth and is, therefore, the only pristine radio-quiet site to pursue observations of the early universe’s cosmic dawn. The far side of the Moon also provides an opportunity to demonstrate human-robotic exploration strategies needed to explore the surfaces of the Moon, asteroids, and Mars. The NASA Lunar Science Institutes’ (NLSI) LUNAR team has outlined a mission to teleoperate a rover on the lunar far side from L2. The rover will deploy a unique polyimide film antenna in the radio-quiet and ionosphere-free zone of the Moon’s far side. A metallic conductor deposited on the surface of Kapton film can be unrolled and used as a low-frequency radio antenna to detect signals from the first stars and galaxies that formed after the Big Bang. The mission is much less expensive than Apollo-style missions because the rovers will be remotely controlled from orbit, so no humans need to land on the lunar surface.

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: Technology Demonstrations Missions (TDM), Space Technology Program (STP), NASA Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT)

TEAM: Maria Bualat, Terry Fong, Young-Wook Jung (KAIST), Yun-kyung Kim (KAIST), Linda Kobayashi, Mark Micire, Ted Morse, Chris Provencher, Ernie Smith, Vinh To, Jay Torres (JPL), Hans Utz, and DW Wheeler

Contact: Terry Fong

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