While working in a hotel room in Italy, astronaut Thomas Reiter instructed a four-wheeled robot to pick up rocks from a volcanic eruption on the east coast of Sicilian. He did so as he pretended to be on his way around the Moon.
The four-day simulation is part of a European Space Agency (ESA) preparation for a future campaign to the Moon, in which it plans to place a rover on the Moon’s surface to collect rock samples. As part of Artemis’ upcoming missions, the Rover will be guided by a team on Earth, along with the astronaut who rode the Lunar Gateway, a planned space station orbiting the Moon.
Although not the Moon, the volcanic eruption of Mount Etna served as an analogy for the lunar surface. A four-wheeled, two-wheeled Interact rover was prepared for the rugged slopes of the volcano and surveyed the area near two other rovers, the Lightweight Rover Units 1 and 2, at the German Aerospace Center. In addition, the standing lunar Lander provided the rover wifi and power, the top drone made a map of the area, and a centipede crawler called Scout acted as a relay between the Interact rover and the Lander. Scout was awarded to the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.
Within four days, ESA astronaut Reiter instructed the Rover to pick up rocks using controls placed in a hotel room in Sicily. The Interact rover is also guided by the authorities of the rover control room, which is housed in another hotel room, as the controllers and astrologers will be separated during the actual operation.
The Rover was 23 miles from the hotel and was at an altitude of 8,500 feet (2,600 m) at Mount Etna. To make the task even more realistic, the team added one second of the signal delay to the control system to simulate the time it would take for orders to arrive at the Moon location from the Lunar Gateway. As the Rover picked up the volcanic rocks, Reiter could sense how the Rover’s gripper felt in the remote control — the extra size in the ESA sample collection work.
“We have learned a lot about the interaction between Earth control and the crew at the space station orbiting the Moon, both using a rover on the ground — this ‘shared’ task can be extremely successful — it works better than either side. do it alone,” Reiter said in a statement.
According to ESA, the program has been operating for over a decade, starting as a space-controlled gaming console during orbit. The four-day simulation marks the first time the Interact rover is tested in a funny outdoor setting. At the end of four days, the Rover successfully returned rock samples to the moon user. The three rovers also worked together to set up antennas at the target locations to mimic the radio star station on the Moon. Interestingly, these horns could detect Jupiter’s radio explosion — the result of its volcanic eruption of Moon Io passing through the planet’s magnetic field.