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PIONEERING ROBOTIC SYSTEMS TO FACILITATE MOON EXPLORATION

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One of the most important challenges facing humanity is located 400,000 km from Earth, the goal being to set up a lunar base. The Moon is a hostile environment that imposes a number of constraints on humans – dangerous radiation, the risk of meteorite impacts, etc.

Exploration work is needed before we will be able to live on the Moon for long periods and exploit its resources or use it as a logistical support for more distant exploration missions in the future. Currently, existing robotic scouting systems are operated by remote control or supervised by humans. The use of autonomous robotic systems would make it possible to perform mapping of dangerous or hard-to-access areas from space (empty lava tubes, etc.) before deploying infrastructures such as a spaceport or housing units for humans.

PROJECT FOR INTERACTION BETWEEN A DRONE AND A ROVER

In response to these exploratory challenges, researchers at ISAE-SUPAERO’s Space Advanced Concepts Laboratory (SaCLaB) and a team of ISAE-SUPAERO students are developing the Collaborative Rover and Drone (CoRoDro) project to study navigation and autonomous operations for robotic space systems.

This scientific study is part of the 12 academic technological projects selected from 8 different countries as part of the 2021 IGLUNA* initiative supported by the European Space Agency (ESA).
The purpose of the CoRoDro concept is to develop interactions between a drone and a rover. In concrete terms, the drone scouts and maps its environment, which it then transmits to the rover so it can analyze the data and choose the best spots to go to and carry out scientific experiments. With the map made by the drone, the rover can choose the shortest route and determine what obstacles may exist, which shortens each exploratory mission.

The purpose of this project is to assess the feasibility of decision-making autonomy for robots to manage their movements and determine the degree of human intervention needed to deal with unexpected events (breakdowns, obstacles, errors, etc.). In view of a lunar facility, the robots will be able to provide support for critical activities such as monitoring the equipment, security, etc.

THE SCIENTIFIC CHALLENGES FACING CORODRO

The main challenge for the researchers at SaCLaB is to lift the technological obstacles, notably the logistics for humans to be able to live permanently on the Moon and in the neighborhood. The CoRoDro project increases our knowledge and enables us to perform full-scale tests on many theories concerning the constraints of the future space station (transport and supplies for the crews, optimizing trajectories, etc.), exploitation of the Moon’s resources, or an analysis of the cooperation between the crews and robots for critical and hazardous activities.

*IGLUNA is an interdisciplinary platform where students from universities around the world design and collaborate on innovative projects for the future of space exploration and improving life on Earth. IGLUNA is part of the ESA_Lab@ initiative launched by ESA to create a center of innovation between universities, research organizations and industry.

“CoRoDro will serve as a demonstrator for testing algorithms in the field at an altitude of 2,000 on Mount Pilatus in Switzerland on July 16th to 25th. These tests cannot be done in a laboratory because the environment is protected there,” said Stéphanie Lizy-Destrez, researcher professor at ISAE-SUPAERO supervising the CoRoDro project.

To go one step further, researchers at ISAE-SUPAERO also have a project to create an adaptable system for exploring underground tunnels on other planets and moons, for which we have little information so far.

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