International Space Station (ISS) astronaut Andreas Mogensen is set to control a new earthbound NASA robot from the ISS, reported Engadget. The event will take place on September 7 and is the first attempt at such an elaborate rover experiment, according to the European Space Agency (ESA), who will be providing the grounds for the experiment.
The earthbound robot, dubbed the "Interact Centaur", has an onboard camera, two force-sensitive arms for precise operations and uses laser guidance and haptic control to allow Mogensen to achieve a sense of feeling as much as possible as he operates the robot's arms remotely, reported Gizmag.
Mogensen's goal will be the guide the robot through the ESA's ESTEC technical centre, which is located in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, according to Digital Trends. After this tour, he will have to locate a task board and secure a metal pin into a 150 micrometre fit, something that would be difficult even when not done remotely.
"When we humans have to perform precision operations, for instance simply inserting our key into the lock of our door, we are relying largely on our feeling of tactile and force receptors in the hand and arms - not on eyesight," said ESA telerobotics specialist and principal investigator André Schiele. "Visual information is of minor importance - these kind of tasks can be done with our eyes closed. ESA is transferring this skill to remotely-controllable robotic systems."
The experiment will be a progression from the last similar experiment, which was much simpler and consisted of a teleoperated handshake in space performed by Schiele and NASA astronaut Terry Virts back in June. These experiments are a part of an ongoing attempt to help astronauts conduct complex tasks remotely in order to eventually comprehensively explore Mars.