ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano will drive the Analog-1 Interact robot to three sites in the hangar in the Netherlands and decide in collaboration with a science team based at the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany, which rocks to pick up and keep for later analysis. This photo shows the rocks he will inspect and decide which to keep – all while circling our planet at 28 800 km/h in the International Space Station.
ESA’s exploration strategy foresees astronauts controlling robots from orbit around the Moon or Mars or from inside a planetary base.
This experiment is as authentic as possible using the International Space Station as a stand-in for a lunar gateway and the hangar made to resemble a lunar landscape. Whereas the first “proficiency run” was used to test the systems and Luca had to follow a determined path, next week he will be more free to explore to meet the objectives set up by the science team at the European Astronaut Centre.
The same science software designed for guiding the ExoMars rover mission on the Red Planet will be used that allows the science team to indicate sites of interest as well as overlay dangerous areas that are beyond the limits of the rover’s capabilities.
The Analog-1 experiment is proving the value of human-robotic cooperation in space and demonstrating the technology that will be used as the basis for many of ESA’s exploration projects.