In the recent test, Frank Rubio controlled the robots as a team: a robotic lander arm, a humanoid robot named Rollin’ Justin, and a rover named Interact. The variety of robot shapes and tools helped Rubio to perform complex operations during the test, like removing a stuck pin or passing over a sample tube to be placed into a lander.
More tests are planned in the series, with Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen set to operate several robots from the ISS once he arrives there. This will include him operating the same humanoid robot and a robot “dog” the engineers have named Bert.
This future test will involve Mogensen acting as director of the group, sending commands to each robot to perform a particular task while he oversees the mission from the ISS. The system uses inputs such as a joystick which provides resistance feedback to help the operator feel the forces of gravity.
The robots have mounted cameras that send images and videos back to the ISS. Although there’s a short communication delay of around 800 milliseconds between Earth and the ISS, it’s not enough to cause a problem for near real-time operations.
The creators of the test like to keep the details of exactly what job the astronaut and the robots will perform a secret so that they can see how they respond to novel challenges and whether the team can adapt to changing situations — as they would have to on a real mission.
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