Astronaut Luca Parmitano has successfully managed to remotely navigate the European Space Agencies Analog-1 Rover around a pre-made obstacle course from his current home on the International Space Station. The obstacle course was located in the Netherlands and the objective of the test was to see if the space agency could replicate this method on more extreme environments like the moon or Mars.
ESA astronaut @astro_luca made robotics history this week, reaching out from the @Space_Station moving in orbit at 8 km/s, to control an Earth-based rover and an advanced gripper with mobility and dexterity equivalent to a human hand 🖐️ 👉 https://t.co/ScSz8KG7x5 pic.twitter.com/GwyE9M4yvq
— ESA (@esa) November 30, 2019
During the test, Parmitano took full control of the prototype rover from the ISS. Parmitano then navigated the rover around the obstacle course where he tested the rover’s ability to pick up rock samples from a designated site. To control the rover, Parmitano used two laptops and a Sigma7 joystick with six degrees of motion to operate the vehicle. The joystick makes use of a technology called ‘force-feedback’ which allows the astronaut in control to feel what the robot is feeling, and adjust his/her grip accordingly.
‘We are developing systems for astronauts to work hand-in-hand with robots, to achieve much more than they could on their own. A rover on Mars would have taken weeks to do the same work Luca and the Analog-1 rover did in half an hour.’ ESA project manager Kjetil Wormnes explained in a press release.
Because the first test was such a success, Parmitano will move ahead with the second phase of testing, which includes remotely driving the rover around three different test sites to collect more rock samples.