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A Surface Telerobotics Roadmap for Exploration and Space Science

Jack Burns
Human Exploration & Destination Drivers
Delivered As: 
Abstract Text: 

Future exploration and space science on the surfaces of planetary bodies will be conducted with robots and humans working together synergistically. In this talk, we describe a Roadmap for Surface Telerobotics in which astronauts in orbit above planetary bodies operate rovers and surface assets via telepresence. The Roadmap began several years ago with ground and laboratory analogs to investigate autonomy, data comm, and interfaces. We progressed to a simulation in 2013 in which the International Space Station (ISS), serving as a proxy for an Orion (or Hab module), directly operated NASA’s K10 planetary rover over a simulated lunar terrain at NASA Ames. The next step will be a transition to NASA’s “proving ground” in cis-lunar space. Orion (and/or a Hab) in the next decade may be placed, for example, in a halo orbit about the Earth-Moon L2 Lagrange point (≈65,000 km above the farside). Several decadal science goals can be pursued with astronauts operating a rover on the lunar surface. First, such a rover could return multiple rock samples from the Moon’s South Pole Aitken Basin, as recommended by the Planetary Sciences Decadal Survey. Second, this mission could also deploy a low frequency radio telescope array to observe the 21-cm power spectrum originating from structure within the intergalactic medium surrounding the first stars and galaxies; these observations help to fulfill recommendations from the Astrophysics Decadal Survey (observing “Cosmic Dawn”). Such surface telerobotics enable “off-board” autonomy and prepare for human Mars missions. The final leg of the Roadmap is to enable crew to explore the surface of Mars from orbit using robots as avatars.

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SSERVI Identifier: 

Recognizing that science and human exploration are mutually enabling, NASA created the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) to address basic and applied scientific questions fundamental to understanding the Moon, Near Earth Asteroids, the Martian moons Phobos and Deimos, and the near space environments of these target bodies. As a virtual institute, SSERVI funds investigators at a broad range of domestic institutions, bringing them together along with international partners via virtual technology to enable new scientific efforts."