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Terrestrial robots controlled by “extraterrestrials”

Categorie Automazione · Io, Robot

In this period we heard a lot about space, from studies on Pluto to the finding of water on Mars. All of these discoveries which comes from ‘out’ of the Earth are possible only because of the use of the best technologies, with advanced robots too.


The Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen has been the protagonist of a special task while he was on the International Space Station in September. The ESA had prepared the test which aim was to control a robot on the Earth from the ISS. Not so easy, because Andreas had to control the automaton with a tolerance of 150 micrometers to complete the mission, and the comunication between the Space Station and the Earth, with about one second delay, worsened the situation.

The robot of the experiment, called Interact Centaur, makes use of seven high performance computers. Thanks to the special haptics-1 joystick (in the photo) the astronaut can move the two arms, which have sensors that allow the operator to feel by touch what the machine feels. The robot moves using four wheels, while four cameras, together with a robotic 6 degrees of freedom neck, give to the astronaut an enormous field of view.

To help the operator, a few virtual markers show the robot position (yellow blocks), its future position (white blocks) and the position and the alignment of the task board (green blocks). Moreover, Mogensen was helped in his task by a special laser which creates an artificial depth impression.


The success of the mission have been an important goal. In the future, studies about space will be more precise and more accurate.

“ESA aims to present and validate a future where humans and robots explore space together. […] We can expect that future human exploration missions to the Moon and Mars will benefit from such advanced human-robotic operations.”

This is what ESA wrote on its ufficial site, and it specifies that “not only in space, but also on Earth, remote controlled robotics will prove highly enabling in dangerous and inaccessible environments”.

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