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Challenges of robotic exploration

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Challenges of robotic exploration. Robotics India Team try explain about Challenges of robotic exploration.

Space Exploration

A key difference from previous exploration efforts is that future space exploration activities must be sustainable over the long term. In order to reduce human workload, costs, & fatigue-driven error & risk, intelligent robots will have to be an integral part of mission design.

Space Robotics

Although robots have previously been used for scientific purposes (e.g., geology) in space, robots will now also be called upon to perform non-scientific work. In particular, robots will be used for a wide range of tasks (under human control & autonomously) ranging from on-orbit assembly & maintenance of spacecraft to construction & maintenance of surface habitats to prospecting & processing of raw materials. The intricate nature of these tasks may require teams of robots capable of monitoring their own progress with a high level of autonomy.

Some research has already focused on developing human & robot systems for planetary surfaces. Scant attention, however, has been paid to joint human-robot teams. Such teams, however, are attractive for numerous applications. Robots could support long-duration manned excursions by scouting, surveying, & carrying equipment. Robots could assist in site preparation, sample collection, & transport. Finally, robots could be used for field labor, inspection & maintenance, & servicing of equipment & structures.


Construction, both in-space (on-orbit) & on planetary surfaces, is fundamental to exploration. Because structures are expected to be large & heavy, robots will be needed for a range of construction tasks including material transport, equipment positioning, & assembly. For example, planetary outpost construction will involve the transport, positioning & assembly of habitat modules that have been deposited (landed) in a scattered manner around the construction site.

Infrastructure Support

Long-duration exploration will require significant robot support to maintain & service infrastructure. Robots could be used to search for, identify, & repair loose fixtures on interior structures (e.g., inside crewed spacecraft) & outdoor structures (solar array, communication structure, etc). A key challenge will be enabling the robot to perform these tasks as autonomously as possible, requesting human assistance & expertise only when necessary.

Contingency Life Support

Lunar pioneers will encounter hazards & crises requiring new emergency procedures. Given that crew sizes will be small, responding to medical emergencies will require robotic support. For example, robots could provide contingency life support or medical transport.

Science Exploration

Robots have long been identified as potentially useful assistants for science exploration. Since the 1990s, numerous researchers have studied how mobile robots can support the field activities of biologists & geologists. Robots can perform a wide variety of functions: scout, equipment transport, caretaker (monitor scientist during EVA), & co-worker (deploy sensor, survey region, etc.).

In-situ Resource Utilization

In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) is a critical need for sustained exploration. Launching & deploying all the materials (consumables) that are needed for a permanent outpost is so cost-prohibitive, that in-situ resources will have to be used. At the same time, in order for ISRU to be cost effective, humans cannot perform this task unaided. Instead, groups of robots could be used to mine, transport, & even process materials such as regolith, water, etc.

Human Robot Interaction Challenges

The interactions between humans & robots will be unlike anything that NASA has designed & implemented before. The operation of robot teams will at times be directed from ground control. For example, a lunar rover team may be assigned tactical assignments (e.g. “inspect solar array alpha”). Surface astronauts will also communicate with in-situ robots using voice-based commands, gestures, & wireless digital communication. Rovers, in turn, will communicate with one-another for team-based collaboration & must also develop sufficient self-diagnostic introspection to request human help when appropriate.

Making human-robot interaction (HRI) effective, efficient & natural is crucial to future space exploration. In particular, we contend that humans & robots must be able to: communicate clearly about their goals, abilities, plans, & achievements; collaborate to solve problems, especially when situations exceed autonomous capabilities; & interact via multiple modalities (dialogue, gestures, etc), both locally & remotely. To achieve these goals, a number of HRI challenges must be addressed. Challenges of robotic exploration

Multiple Spatial Ranges

Exploration will require human-robot collaboration across multiple spatial ranges, from shoulder-to-shoulder (e.g., human & robot in a shared space) to line-of-sight interaction (human in habitat, robot outside) to over-the-horizon (human in habitat, robot far away) to interplanetary (human at ground control, robot on planetary surface).

Although a great many telerobotic systems have been developed during the past 50 years, none currently support multiple spatial ranges (i.e., all existing systems have been optimized for a particular spatial range). The challenge, therefore, is to develop HRI techniques for supporting multiple spatial ranges.

Challenges of robotic exploration
Challenges of robotic exploration

Interaction Architecture

Interaction architectures are structured software frameworks that support human-computer interaction. These architectures typically provide a set of core services (messaging, event/data distribution, etc.), support a variety of interfaces & displays, & facilitate human-centered interaction (as opposed to device-centered).

Significant research effort has focused on developing interaction architectures during the past several years, particularly for supporting ubiquitous & context-aware applications, but few are designed for robotics. Moreover, none support the range of interaction scenarios & data requirements we believe will be necessary for exploration.

Peer-to-Peer Dialogue

Human-robot dialogue is an emerging sub-domain of HRI research. At present, most HRI systems rely on explicit dialogue (i.e. task commands), which is directed from a human to one, or more, robots. A few systems, such as NRL’s multi-modal dialogue system, use multiple interaction modes (gesturing, natural language, etc.) to improve usability & for disambiguation.

In all these systems, however, the dialogue model is essential the same: the human “speaks;” the robot “listens” & perhaps asks for clarification. What we need for exploration, however, is dialogue that works both ways. We need to enable robots to ask questions of the human (so that they can obtain assistance with cognition & perception) & to develop techniques so that robots will be able to make use of “implicit” language & gesturing.

Constrained Interfaces

Human-robot teams will require appropriate user interfaces in order to effectively perform exploration “field labor.” Because humans will need to interact with robots in a variety of ways (different levels of autonomy, different spatial arrangements, etc.), a wide range of interfaces will be needed, both inside habitats & in EVA. Moreover, to improve usability & interaction effectiveness, a significant challenge is to develop constrained, Standardized user interfaces. Standardized methods will reduce training time & will increase reusability by allowing modular improvements.

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