On June 17, 2013, Astronaut Chris Cassidy successfully drove a K10 rover on earth, via remote connection from the Surface Telerobotics Workbench on the International Space Station, showing that robots deployed to explore Mars or the far side of the moon could be remotely controlled by astronauts in space during future deep-space missions. Telerobotics, which involves human operators remotely controlling robotic arms, rovers and other devices in space, is one means of reducing risk in dull, dangerous or dirty tasks as humans explore space.
NASA has a long history of playing for high stakes; think of the 7 minutes of terror Curiosity descent to Mars, Spirit & Opportunity, and indeed, the entire space race. Yet when human lives and millions of dollars in technology are invested, it’s critical to keep risk at a minimum. As part of our series on ‘High-Risk / High-Reward’ robotics, we asked Dr. Terry Fong of the NASA Ames Intelligent Robotics Group, to describe how NASA’s telerobotics initiatives help mitigate risk in space missions. – Robohub Editors