Lunar technology on Mount Etna

(ORDO NEWS) — For four weeks, from June 12 to July 9, the ARCHES Space-Analog Demonstration project, carried out by the German Aerospace Center DLR with the participation of ESA, will study the operations and technologies that enable the mission to return samples to the lunar surface with the participation of an astronaut on Lunar Gateway (Lunar Orbital Gateway Platform).

As part of the simulation, ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter will operate the rover at an altitude of 2,600 meters on the slopes of Mount Etna from a room located 23 kilometers away in the nearby city of Catania. This distance mimics remote control situations that astronauts will encounter on the Moon.

The third week will be the main event of the departure: three real-time tests will simulate situations before and after the creation of the gateway, as well as how astronauts and rovers can work together on the lunar surface in the future.

The 300 kg ESA Interact four-wheeled rover, equipped with capture arms and cameras, and a stereo camera mast, will be one of the main stars of the project.

However, Interact can provide much more than just images of the environment. Its state-of-the-art controls include force feedback that allows astronauts to feel the planet’s surface just like a rover, right down to understanding the weight and cohesion of the rocks it touches.

This isn’t the rover’s first surface walk, but it has received several upgrades to help it withstand outdoor use since it was flown by ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano in December 2019 from the International Space Station.

Such autonomous networks of robots are considered a key technology of the future, and in the coming years they will be vital for conducting research in harsh, vast environments, from the deep sea on Earth to the surface of the Moon and Mars.


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