Telerobotics a new direction in the arena of space exploration

Telerobotics is now emerging as the new technology in space exploration. Telerobotics offers promising results much more effective than on earth, where the human controlled robots are being used for the activities from delicate surgery to exploration into the deepest oceans and seas. Telerobotics in simple terms is the area of robotics that involves the control of robots from a distance.

The telerobotics technology is being used by the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) through The Human Exploration Technology Demonstration Mission or HET by demonstrating how telerobotics through its remote controlled robotic arms, rovers and other devices can take the dangerous, repetitive, or long duration tasks thereby improving and speeding up the space exploration missions in the area of space exploration.

Telerobotics is now being recognized as more effective and productive for deep space exploration than the semi semi-autonomous robots like the robots like Mars rovers- Spirit and Opportunity.

The main issue that is creating hindrances in the telerobotics is the latency in the communication signals that is required to control from Earth on a robot that is indulged in the exploration of another planet. NASA in order to tackle this hindrance through HET is testing Disruption Tolerant Networking or DTN software for telerobotics in order to minimize the delays in the delivery of the data between the computers on the ground and the robots up in the space.

There are different latency levels for signals in different spaces. For example, within the earth the latency of signals is not more than a few milliseconds, latency between Earth and the Moon is about 3 seconds and between Earth and Mars, the latency of signals is from 8 to 40 minutes. Any delay in these signals can slow down the functions of the telerobotics in a big way.  The possible solution is to create a “Space Internet” with extensive applications for all future robotic and human operations in space.

Another course of action for removing the barriers of latency is to test out the robotic telepresence on earth through the simulated latencies. For instance, rovers on the moon controlled from lunar orbit on a real time basis in order to explore the other side of the moon. NASA in 2011 has flown to the space station a two armed humanoid named Robonaut-2 as part of the telerobotic demonstration.

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