Safe and Efficient Robotic Space Exploration with Tele-Supervised Autonomous Robots

Alberto Elfes, John M. Dolan, Gregg Podnar, Sandra Mau, Marcel Bergerman

A successful plan for space exploration requires the commissioning of fleets of robots to prospect, mine, build, inspect and maintain structures, and generally assist astronauts, rendering the overall mission as safe as reasonably achievable for human beings, the most precious resource. The authors are currently developing, under the support of NASA, a Robot Supervision Architecture (RSA) which will allow a small number of human operators to safely and efficiently telesupervise a fleet of autonomous robots. This represents a significant advance over the state of the art, where currently one robot is overseen by a group of skilled professionals. In this paper we describe some aspects of this work, including the architecture itself for coordination of human and robot work, failure and contingency management, high-fidelity telepresence, and operation under limited bandwidth. We also present highlights of our first application: wide area prospecting of minerals and water in support of sustained outposts on the Moon and on Mars.

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