June 21, 2017
When Apollo astronauts on the moon spoke with Mission Control on Earth, there was a noticeable time gap between a statement from Tranquility Base and its immediate acknowledgment from Houston. The gap lasted almost three seconds, or 10 times longer than human reaction times would account for.
What was happening? The answer is simple: space. The moon orbits far enough from Earth that light (and radio) take 1.3 seconds each way to travel the distance. At exploration targets farther away, the delay increases; for exploring Mars, signals take between 5 and 40minutes, depending on the varying distance between the two planets.
“During the Apollo missions, the astronauts were making scientific observations and relaying what they saw back to scientists on Earth. Both were collaborating on decisions about observations and which samples to collect and bring back to Earth to yield the most scientific value,” said Kip Hodges, Foundation Professor in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration.
“This worked reasonably well for lunar explorations, but the time delay is likely to dramatically reduce the quality and scientific value of such collaborations in exploring faraway places like Mars.”
So far, Hodges notes, fieldwork is being done remotely on Mars by scientists on Earth using robotic tools such as the Curiosity rover. But it’s slow.
“Even though signals commanding observations and measurements take only minutes or tens of minutes to reach Mars, a single research activity on Mars, from command to data return, can take a day or more,” he said.
In the June 21 issue of the journal Science Robotics, Hodges and collaborators Dan Lester at Exinetics and Robert Anderson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratorysuggesta new approach to scientific exploration that they call exploration telepresence.
“To the extent that much scientific research is a process where awareness drives action,” the authors say, “the communications delay between humans on Earth and planetary exploration sites is limiting.”
The ideal is to keep these delays, or “latencies,” within the length of human reaction times. One approach is to have the astronaut scientists working directly on the surface of a planet. But landing humans and keeping them safe is an expensive and dangerous strategy.
A safer and less expensive approach, according to the authors, may be exploration science using telepresence, a strategy widely used on Earth now for activities as delicate and demanding as surgery.
“Telepresence means humans operating robotic systems from a distance close enough where the delay between human action and the robotic response is a fraction of a second,” Hodges explained.
For Mars research, astronauts might go to Mars orbit, but not to the surface. From orbit, the communications travel time would be such that an astronaut/scientist could work with a robotic surrogate, experiencing the surface environment virtually, and doing scientific investigations as if she or he were on the ground.
Moreover, humans in Mars orbit could control instruments in real time at many different sites across the planet. And by preventing contamination of Mars with terrestrial biology, exploration telepresence from orbit also offers advantages overin situhuman explorers.
While the authors add that scientific research by humans working directly on the other planetary surfaces is the ultimate goal, exploration telepresence could be an important next step.
Today we do good science on Mars using long time-delay telerobotics, but we could do much better science much more quickly with humans on the surface, Hodges said. Exploration telepresence would be a reasonable compromise until that day comes.”
Moreover, he said, “There are important targets for scientific exploration for which we currently don’t have the technology to land humans safely. Exploration telepresence could greatly expand the number of destinations where humans can do great science.”
Top photo:When scientists control Mars rover Curiosity, the turnaround time from deciding to examine a rock to getting the raw data back from the rover is one day at a minimum, due to the time delay for sending a command and getting a reply from the rover. But astronaut-scientists in Mars orbit could one day control, in real time, telerobotic landers, rovers and other surrogates all over the Martian surface. Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
- Space whisperers: the Aussies guiding Cassini's suicide mission to Saturn - The Guardian - August 13th, 2017
- Mars concept vehicle offers glimpse into future of space exploration ... - NJTV News - August 12th, 2017
- NASA's Voyager Spacecraft Celebrate 40 Years of Space Exploration - Houston Press - August 12th, 2017
- Ghana Launches Its First Satellite As Part of A New Era of African Space Exploration - Atlanta Black Star - August 12th, 2017
- Voyager celebrates 40 years of space exploration - The Space Reporter - August 9th, 2017
- Space Exploration and Travel: Is It Crazy or Inevitable? - Investorplace.com - August 9th, 2017
- Working at SpaceX: Low Pay, High Stress and a Chance to Be Part of History - PayScale Career News (blog) - August 9th, 2017
- India Eyes Big Business With Africa In Space Exploration - Bharat Shakti - August 9th, 2017
- Luxembourg set to become Europe's commercial space exploration hub with new Space Law - Lexology (registration) - August 6th, 2017
- LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Space Exploration Begins in Class - The News Herald - August 4th, 2017
- Luxembourg set to become Europe's commercial space exploration hub with new Space Law - Resource World Magazine (press release) (subscription) - August 4th, 2017
- The Ethics of Mars Exploration: Q&A with Lucianne Walkowicz - Space.com - August 4th, 2017
- Op-ed | What is the best way to mine the moon? - SpaceNews - August 4th, 2017
- Space Exploration & Rocketry Scout Program - August 2nd, 2017
- Exploring Space With Astropreneurs - Fair Observer - August 2nd, 2017
- space exploration | Britannica.com - July 29th, 2017
- A century before Bezos and Musk, rich men were already funding space exploration - Quartz - July 29th, 2017
- How 3D printing is enabling the next generation of space exploration - Professional Engineering (subscription) - July 29th, 2017
- Three-man crew reaches International Space Station - Phys.Org - July 29th, 2017
- What is SpaceX and is it the future of space exploration? - Telegraph.co.uk - July 27th, 2017
- Interview: Neil deGrasse Tyson is helping to create this space exploration video game - BGR - July 27th, 2017
- Neil deGrasse Tyson Wants You to Explore Deep SpaceIn a Video Game - WIRED - July 27th, 2017
- Guest column: Wisconsin remembers Apollo era, looks to future of space exploration - hngnews.com - July 27th, 2017
- NASA takes major step toward deep-space exploration - Sacramento Bee - July 27th, 2017
- There may be a lot of water hiding under the moon's dusty surface, researchers say - CBS News - July 27th, 2017
- NASA Visitor Centers Tell the Story of Space Exploration - Leisure Group Travel - July 27th, 2017
- July 20 in Sci-Fi History: Space Exploration & Bruce Lee - SYFY WIRE (blog) - July 22nd, 2017
- Elon Musk Thinks A Permanent Moon Base Would Make Space Exploration Easier In The Future - Indiatimes.com - July 22nd, 2017
- NASA's space exploration tech to help self-driving cars at new test track - Orlando Business Journal - July 22nd, 2017
- Space Exploration-Themed Auction Planned on 48 Anniversary of First Moon Landing - WFMY News 2 - July 20th, 2017
- Inner Strength for Outer Space - NBCNews.com - July 20th, 2017
- Space artifacts up for grabs at Sotheby's first space-exploration themed auction - KTVA.com - Anchorage, Alaska - July 18th, 2017
- STAR-CCM+ Update Incorporates HEEDS for Design Space Exploration - ENGINEERING.com - July 18th, 2017
- Luxembourg passes law for space exploration - Mining Technology - Mining Technology - July 18th, 2017
- ISS: Cute Japanese Drone Sends Back Photos From Space - Newsweek - July 18th, 2017
- Space-Exploration Artifacts Are Worth So Much Money for a Reason - TIME - July 15th, 2017
- Abstracts: Environmental Killings, Space Exploration, and More - Undark Magazine - July 15th, 2017
- How Moon Express is shooting way beyond the moon for space - Syfy - SYFY WIRE (blog) - July 15th, 2017
- The United States aim for space exploration leadership - Travel Wires - July 15th, 2017
- Our space programme will inspire Emirati youth and create a competitive economy - The National - July 15th, 2017
- Elon Musk's space vision can inspire new generations: Letters - The Daily Breeze - July 15th, 2017
- SpaceX goes thereseeks government funds for deep space - Ars Technica - July 14th, 2017
- Luxembourg becomes first European country to adopt space exploration law - Luxemburger Wort - English Edition - July 14th, 2017
- Moon Express Announces Plan for Solar System Exploration - Seeker - July 14th, 2017
- Space exploration can make us rich, one day! - Daily Pakistan - July 14th, 2017
- Big Space Exploration Dreams from Administration with Few Details Yet - PJ Media - July 14th, 2017
- Special event gives insight into space exploration - LoughboroughEcho.net - July 14th, 2017
- Space Exploration News - Space News, Space Exploration ... - July 10th, 2017
- Moon rock on the block: Sotheby's stages its first space exploration ... - The National - July 10th, 2017
- 45th Space Wing cuts into a new era of space exploration - Pactrick Air Force Base - July 8th, 2017
- Setbacks are inevitable in space exploration - South China Morning Post - July 8th, 2017
- Lenhoff: Whatever happened to exploring the final frontier? - Chicago Tribune - July 8th, 2017
- Mike Pence: NASA to Refocus on Human Space Exploration - ExecutiveGov - July 8th, 2017
- Pence vows 'new era' in US space exploration, but few details - Phys.Org - July 7th, 2017
- RCA graduate proposal would see ordinary people driving NASA's space exploration rovers - Dezeen - July 7th, 2017
- Go-ahead given to University of Warwick led space exploration - The Boar - July 7th, 2017
- Lunar Rescue: Astronauts Can Move Fallen Comrades with New Tool - Space.com - July 7th, 2017
- Sorry Veep, America already leads the world in space by a large margin - Ars Technica - July 7th, 2017
- NASA: Mike Pence Loves Space, but Does He Believe in Science? - Newsweek - July 6th, 2017
- Branson Aims Mid-2018 Space Trip as Virgin Resumes Powered Tests - Bloomberg - July 6th, 2017
- Kennedy Space Center prepares for Pence - WESH Orlando - July 5th, 2017
- Travel: Cape Canaveral offers strange mix of space exploration and natural beauty - The Delaware County Daily Times - July 4th, 2017
- White House reconstitutes National Space Council - The Space Reporter - July 4th, 2017
- NASA developing mini-nuclear power plants for deep space exploration - Blasting News - July 3rd, 2017
- With Space Security Remarks, Trump Even Finds a Way to Ruin Space Exploration - The Mary Sue - July 2nd, 2017
- The Future of Deep Space Propulsion May Soon Be Radically ... - Seeker - July 2nd, 2017
- Making Luxembourg a global space hub - Luxemburger Wort - English Edition - July 2nd, 2017
- Japan wants to put a man on the moon, accelerating Asian space race - CNN - July 2nd, 2017
- Space Exploration Masters Competition Kicks Off at Paris Air Show - SpaceWatch Middle East (press release) (subscription) (blog) - June 29th, 2017
- NASA: AI Will Lead the Future of Space Exploration - Futurism - June 27th, 2017
- The Surprising Space Ambitions in Colonial America - The Atlantic - June 27th, 2017
- Space Exploration | Aviation Week - June 26th, 2017
- 2 Nations Are Vying To Be The New Heavyweights Of Space Exploration - NewsChannel5.com - June 26th, 2017
- Neil deGrasse Tyson is Developing a Space Exploration Video Game - Big Think - June 24th, 2017
- 2 Nations Are Vying To Be The New Heavyweights Of Space ... - ABC2 News - June 24th, 2017
- China, India vying to become new heavyweights in space exploration - Ripples Nigeria - June 24th, 2017
- NASA? More like NASAI: Brainy robots 'crucial' to space exploration ... - The Register - June 23rd, 2017
- Why go to Mars when you can telecommute there instead? | Popular ... - Popular Science - June 22nd, 2017
- Neil deGrasse Tyson is making an educational video game about space exploration - New York Daily News - June 21st, 2017
- Why the next space explorers could be autonomous robots - Sacramento Bee - June 21st, 2017