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Ames Surface Telerobotics Team Successfully Conducts First Surface Telerobotics Test With ISS
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Ames Surface Telerobotics Team Successfully Conducts First Surface Telerobotics Test With ISS

The Human Exploration Telerobotics (HET) Surface Team successfully conducted the first Surface Telerobotics test session with the International Space Station (ISS) on Monday, June 17th, 2013. During the test session, Expedition 35 Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy remotely operated the K10 planetary rover in the NASA Ames “Roverscape” outdoor testbed from the ISS. Cassidy used the robot to perform surface site survey and to begin deploying a simulated Kapton film-based radio antenna. Subsequent test sessions in July and August will focus on completing antenna deployment, inspecting the deployment, and studying human-robot interaction.

This test session is notable for demonstrating seven first-ever achievements:

  • First real-time teleoperation of a planetary rover from the ISS
  • First real-time supervisory control of a planetary rover from the ISS
  • First astronaut (Chris Cassidy) to interactively control a high-fidelity planetary rover in an outdoor analog testbed (NASA Ames "Roverscape")
  • First use of the NASA Robot Application Programming Interface Delegate (RAPID) messaging system to control a robot from space (RAPID was originally developed by the Space Technology Mission Directorate Human-Robotic Systems project)
  • First engineering data collection of a crew-controlled surface telerobotic system, including comm message data/link usage, user interface operation, robot telemetry, and human-robot interaction
  • First use of ISS OpsLAN and OCA LAN Wi-Fi, and NASA Integrated Network Services (NISN), to connect an ISS crew computer to an outdoor robot (at NASA Ames)
  • First high-fidelity simulation of a human-robot "Waypoint" mission concept (Earth-Moon Lunar Farside [L2] telescope deployment concept proposed by UC Boulder and Lockheed Martin)

A description of the test session and relevant interviews can be found here:

BACKGROUND: Surface Telerobotics demonstrates a future exploration concept of operations in which an astronaut in an orbiting spacecraft remotely operates a robot on a planetary surface. The primary objective of Surface Telerobotics is to collect baseline engineering data from crew, robot, and data communications to characterize system operation. Surface Telerobotics is part of the Human Exploration Telerobotics (HET) project and the Space Technology Mission Directorate.

The Human Exploration Telerobotics (HET) project explores how advanced telerobotics can improve the productivity of human explorers and increase the performance of human missions. HET conducts tests and demonstrations of robot systems remotely operated by crew in space and by ground controllers on Earth. HET makes use of the ISS and a wide variety of robots, including Robonaut 2, SPHERES, the K10 Rover, Centaur 2, and ATHLETE.

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 will 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 Mission (TDM), Space Technology Program (STP), NASA Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT)

TEAM: Mark Allan, Xavier Bouyssounouse, Maria Bualat (Project Manager), Tamar Cohen, Terry Fong (Science PI), Lorenzo Fluckiger, Ravi Gogna, Young-Wook Jung (KAIST), Yun-kyung Kim (KAIST), Linda Kobayashi, Grace Lee, Susan Lee, Tod Milam (TRACLabs), Estrellina Pacis, Liam Pedersen, Chris Provencher, Debbie Schreckenghost (TRACLabs), Ernie Smith, Vinh To, Jay Torres (JPL), Hans Utz, and DW Wheeler

COLLABORATORS: The NASA Astronaut Office, Johnson Space Center Mission Operations Directorate, the Lunar University Network for Astrophysics Research, Lockheed Martin Corp, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, the International Space Station Technology Demo Office, International Space Station Avionics and Software, and the Academy of Art University

Contact: Terry Fong

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