The K10 Rover during a test to deploy a simulated Kapton film-based radio antenna, was used in what NASA Scientists are studying how to better increase the signal strength of the Rover. The Robot Application Programming Interface Delegate, or (RAPID), is expected to increase the speed of the message system used to control the K10 Rover during activities by astronauts that require real time transmissions in order to eliminate wait times between commands used on planetary surface such as Mars, and or the lunar surfaces of the Earth’s moon.
David Alfano a Program Manager with NASA Ames Research Center explained, the Italian Astronaut on the ISS, International Space Station Luca Parmitano, was maneuvering the K10 rover from several hundred miles up from space at the Ames Research Center located at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California. Parmitano found notoriety around the web and ESA/NASA Headquarters during a recent space walk, in which he experienced water leaking into his helmet during a planned 6.5 hour spacewalk outside the ISS.
Alfano said, “He is 250 miles above the earth’s surface, and he will be controlling K10 Rover to do a site survey and then deploy a simulated radio antenna.”
Lewis S. G. Braxton III is the Deputy Director and senior planning and policy strategist for NASA Ames said, “We are here to give a demonstration how we perfected telerobotics within the agency.”
Others responsible for the mission were also a part of the days testing by helping monitor the movements of the K10 Rover, helping Parmitano avoid any potential hazards.
“This is just a sample of what can do to befit us on earth as well as us in the Universe,” Braxton said. With several job fronts on the horizon of NASA Ames you can also expect new technologies stemming from high-end computing, with new centralized autonomous systems making an impact on innovation. “We are making a big difference not only within the United States but, within the world,” Braxton said.
James Reuther, Deputy Associate Administrator of Programs for the Space Technology Mission Directorate said, “We are about getting the technologies together for the next generation of missions to places, like sending humans to mars.” The large test site measuring more than two football fields was modeled after an actual test site on the surface of Mars. “It takes eight minutes for a signal from earth to reach Mars,” Reuther said. The K10 Rover response time was expected to increase dramatically using new antennae equipment placed on the K10 Rover. “It’s not just for an application such as the Mars mission, its allowing these same technologies to get into use in everyday work on the planet, in medical research and in many other applications,” Reuther said. Dr. Reuther explained how telerobotics might be used in such places as the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plant in Tokyo Japan.
The U.S. launched probes into the Daiichi Nuclear plant after it was severely damaged from the 9.0 earthquake and Tsunami revealing “57 millisieverts inside the housing for reactor No. 3 and up to 49 millisieverts inside the No. 1 reactor building”.
“These same technologies you want a telerobotics to go into a disaster area to do a task regularly human beings could not do,” Reuther said.
Harry Partridge, Center Chief Technologist, Ames Research Center said, “There are a lot of technologies involved in that we are demonstrating.” There are lots of potential applications. Partridge who has managed a range of entry system technology developments from foundational research on thermal protection materials explained Ames goals were developing future technologies that deal with time delay, the merging with autonomy, along with numerous medical applications, and all things dealing with robotic applications. Space missions in the future are expected to widen “applications both here on Earth and in space,” Partridge said.
Terry Fong, the Human Exploration Telerobotics Project Manager and Director of the Intelligent Robotics Group at NASA Ames said, “Specifically this project represents the first fully-interactive remote operation of a planetary rover by an astronaut in space.” The K10 Rover is being used as part of an experiment understanding how robots can be used on the surface of our planet or a lunar surface. “We are really interested in remotely operated robots,” Fong said.
The program that is controlling the robot was written in JAVA script, which can run on any standard laptop computer. “Luca Parmitano is a 100% in control of this robot,” Fong said. During the testing phase of the project studies were conducted not only on the testing of the antennae and wait time expected between commands, but also the study was focused on how robots really improve the way humans live and work in space. “The JAVA software is new software that allows us to do things nobody could conceive of, even ten years ago,” Fong said.
Several University students participated in collaboration with the University in San Francisco Academy of Art, along with NASA engineers who developed the technology that remotely interfaces with the K10 rover. Part of the interfacing program is how you can communicate information to the robot from outer space and back using surface telerobotics.
“The test we are doing today involves capturing lots of information, data about the robot, and data about the communications,” Fong said. As part of the testing, a simulation of future possible scenario landings, a three pronged antennae array was used to enhance the signal from the surface of the Earth to the ISS station some 250 miles upward above NASA Ames Research Center.
“We have chosen a mission scenario that involves taking a robot to the far side of the moon and deploying a radio telescope to observe the early beginnings of the Universe, the so called cosmic dawn,” Fong said. The idea behind lunar telerobotics was developed by the University of Boulder Jack Burns.
Visiting from the University of Colorado, Jack Burns the Director of the LUNAR University Network for Astrophysics Research said, “You are getting a glimpse of future space exploration.” Burns said, “The future is going to be an astronaut or series of astronauts in control of a fleet of robots.”
To learn more go to usedview.com : Professor of Astrophysics & Planetary Sciences Jack Burns rolls out NASA’s new mission to the farside of the moon.
David Mittman, Human Exploration Telerobotics Technical Lead for Robot Communications at JPL said, “NASA Ames is participating in this project, with several NASA Centers, Educational Institutions that have come together to put this system into operation.” There is a partnership between astronauts and robots, which crosses beyond NASA and the Human/Robot partnership. These partnerships are exploring our Solar System beyond the Earth’s lower orbit, we are using a lot of commercial technology, Mittman explained. “We are bringing those technologies together here at Ames,” Mittman said.
Mittman has been involved in creating a team at JPL that had developed the RAPID software. The new software is considered groundbreaking, in that it uses a new forum of robot communication language to maneuver the K10 rover. “We want to have an environment where we have multiple robots helping humans in space, and we want to make these robots easier to operate,” Mittman said.
Many here NASA Ames believe telerobotics is the new wave to the future. With this new wave of technology and software created by NASA Ames and other working partners is making it even easier for anyone to own their own personal robot.