Collaboration astronaut-robot: Training for planetary missions


European researchers with the participation of the Center for Astrobiology (CSIC-INTA) develop training techniques for planetary missions. The simulation for the missions to Mars will be carried out in the "Martian analogue" of the Rio Tinto area (Huelva)

How to train astronauts more realistically on Earth for missions to distant planets? How can robots support them in space? The answers to these questions will be developed by a team of European researchers under the direction of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (Deutsche Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz, DFKI) in the EU project that has just begun. "MOONWALK". The objective of this project is the development and testing of technologies for future manned missions to the Moon or Mars. MOONWALK will focus on robot-astronaut cooperation for relevant activities such as soil sampling. Astronauts are limited in their movements due to the pressurized spacesuit and the reduced gravity on the surface.

In the terrestrial simulations of missions to the Moon and Mars is an enormous challenge the recreation of operational restrictions such as reduced gravity or the delay of communication between astronauts and control of the mission on Earth. Two campaigns are planned in MOONWALK to emulate some of the conditions that astronauts will encounter in future spacewalks: Tests under the sea on the coast of the French city of Marseille, where extravehicular activities (EVA) of the surface will be carried out lunar; and in the reddish landscape of the Rio Tinto mines (Huelva, Spain), where operations will focus on astrobiological sampling and analysis procedures.

"These simulations in the Rio Tinto area can help prepare future manned missions to the planet Mars, "says Víctor Parro, researcher at the Center for Astrobiology (CAB, CSIC-INTA), participant in the project. The astronauts will wear a simulation space suit that recreates the characteristics of a true pressurized spacesuit. The communication and cooperation between the astronauts and a robotic assistant will be tested and trained in both scenarios. The possibilities of working in cooperation with NASA for future simulations of joint missions are also discussed.


MOONWALK is a consortium formed by seven European organizations : DFKI Robotics Innovation Center in Bremen (project coordinator), COMEX in France (technical coordination), EADS in Great Britain, LIQUIFER Systems Group in Austria, Space Application Services in Belgium, NTNU Norway Interdisciplinary Space Research Center, and the National Institute of Aerospace Technology (INTA) of Spain. The three-year program is financed with 3.1 million euros by the European Commission in the framework of the 7th Framework Program of the SPATIAL activity.


Dr. Víctor Parro, Center for Astrobiology (CSIC-INTA)

Scientific Culture Unit of the CAB: Luis Cuesta


Fuente: UCC-CAB


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