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Teleoperation from Mars Orbit is (usually) Not a Good Idea

Michael Sims
Delivered As: 
Abstract Text: 

Teleoperation from Mars Orbit is often proposed as a way to solve slowness of Mars rover operations and hence as a justification for human explorations of Mars. This report is an update of unpublished work from circa 1990 done for the Human Exploration Initiative by Roger Bourke, Donna Priviotto and myself that concluded that teleoperation from Mars orbit was not a solution to those issues. The strength of these arguments are even more compelling today, given the intervening technology advancements and demonstrated surface Mars activities, than it was at that time.

It is not being argued that human missions to the cis-Mars area are not justified and good things to do - only that humans astronauts doing teleoperated control of robots is not a good justifications for such missions. There are some circumstances when cis-Mars robotic teleoperation control might have utility and we will lay out the situations for which that may be valuable. This argument is based on classifying the activities robots will engage in doing scientific and engineering tasks on a surface, on where automation makes sense for safety and other human factors considerations and on an enumerating of maximum crewtime availabilities in realistic mission scenarios. These scientific and engineering tasks will be contrasted between cis-Mars teleoperations and Earth based control with minor and demonstrated technologies.

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."