On Friday, ESA astronaut Tim Peake got to toy around with a test rover on Earth from the International Space Station. This is a great demonstration of how humans on the International Space Station could actually control rovers on other planets with wireless signals, such as on Mars.
In the testing, Peake drove the rover through indoor simulated caves in a controlled environment that was built to simulate the rough and rugged Martian environment.
The project could evolve into a real thing where a human-controlled rover gets placed on Mars and can be controlled remotely. Current rovers on the red planet are mostly autonomous, and do many things on their own without human intervention.
The project is dubbed Multi-Purpose End-To-End Robotic Operation Network or Meteron for short. While driving the rover around in the simulated environment, Peake is achieving goals, reaching checkpoints, and mapping out the location here on Earth from all the way up in the International Space Station.
As the BBC reports, it’s a tricky thing to master.
Peake has to deal with latency issues that occur from the command signals needing to bounce from the International Space Station all the way to the rover, which involves bouncing off of several nodes in the process.
All this activity means there are a few seconds of delay between the signal getting there and Peake actually sending it.
Nevertheless, Peake is getting used to the learning curve and is reportedly having a blast.
By having humans control rovers on other planets, we can better deal with situations that may occur. Computers are great at performing boring repetitive tasks, but when it comes to decision-making, humans are better for the job.
Such technology could help plant the seed for the ESA's plans to have rovers drilling into the Martian surface.
Source: BBC, DailyMail