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The project examined how time delays impact robot control during space missions
February 9, 2024
An astronaut aboard the International Space Station has taken remote control of multiple Earth-bound robots, including a robot dog, in what’s being called a world first.
The European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Marcus Wandt, currently orbiting in the Columbus module of the International Space Station, took command of a quadruped robot called Bert, making it explore the lab's surroundings independently and monitor the terrain with his camera eyes.
He then took command of the DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics's humanoid service robot Rollin' Justin and ESA's Interact Rover.
Under Wandt’s command, Rollin' Justin and Interact Rover installed a short pipe to demonstrate their dexterity, with the humanoid robot using its dexterous hands to grasp the pipe and guide it to the measuring point, while the rover’s remote control was used to install the pipe held in position by Justin.
The "Surface Avatar" project, building on previous trials in July 2023, was conducted to examine how time delays impact robot control during space missions and develop technologies to allow humans to control several robots simultaneously.
Until now, only wheeled robots have been controlled remotely from space, and the successful inclusion of Bert in the experiments paves the way for astronauts to control devices such as rovers on the moon or Mars from an orbiting spacecraft.
"Future stations on the Moon and Mars, including astronaut habitats, will be built and maintained by robots operating under the guidance of astronauts,” said Alin Albu-Schäffer, DLR’s director. “Our latest control and AI algorithms enable a single astronaut to command an entire team of different robots. Our DLR-ESA team is a world leader when it comes to this technology."
Assistant Editor, IoT World Today
Scarlett Evans is the assistant editor for IoT World Today, with a particular focus on robotics and smart city technologies. Scarlett has previous experience in minerals and resources with Mine Australia, Mine Technology and Power Technology. She joined Informa in April 2022.
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