European Space Agency Astronaut Analog-1 Rover Earth ISS
The ESA’s Analog-1 rover is unlike any other that you’ve probably seen, and that is because it can be controlled right here on Earth directly from the International Space Station. This technique enables astronauts in orbit, like Luca Parmitano, to control rovers exploring planetary surfaces. Other tests have been completed int the past, but this most recent one was the first time that an astronaut in space managed to control a robotic system on the ground in such an immersive, intuitive manner.



Why was this test more immersive than the others? Luca had 6° of freedom control interface that incorporated force feedback so that he was able to experience just what the rover feels, even the weight and cohesion of the rocks it touches. This feedback compensates for any limitations of bandwidth, poor lighting or signal delay to give a real sense of immersion, since it lets the astronaut feels as though they are there at the scene. Now we imagine the feedback of drilling into rocks may not be the most enjoyable rover experience for astronauts.

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European Space Agency Astronaut Analog-1 Rover Earth ISS

So we have been working towards the concept of humans staying safely and comfortably in orbit around the Moon, Mars or other planetary bodies, but being close enough for direct oversight of rovers on the surface – combining the human strengths of flexibility and improvisation with a robust, dexterous robot on the spot to carry out their commands precisely,” said Thomas Krueger, Robotics Engineer heading ESA’s Human Robot Interaction Laboratory.

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