The goal is to advance technology for astronauts to guide Rovers while orbiting Mars – but there are a few obstructions to overcome.
British astronaut #TimPeake will take command of a robot in England as he circles the Earth from space on Friday afternoon.
Major Peake, 44, is on the Worldwide Space Station, where he is wasting six months doing scientific analyses.
He will remotely pilot the European Space Agency rover, named Bridget, through a simulated Martian landscape at Airbus Guard and Space in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.
The Mars Yard is 30m by 13m and will be divided in two with a partition running as the entrance to a cave. The hole will have very little light.
One rover will drive autonomously across the well-lit part of the yard before standing at the cave. At this point, Major Peake will obtain control of Bridget.
His task is to get Bridget into the cave and notice three targets marked with UV paint before exiting – all within 90 minutes.
Bridget must construct each target up for a picture, mark a map and inform ground control.
The goal is to advance the technology needed for astronauts to pilot Rovers while circling Mars and to examine how humans and robots can work together.
It may seem relatively simple, but there will be some barriers that Tim Peake and Bridget must succeed.
It needs some time for signals to be transferred from the ISS – 250 miles above Earth – so there will be a delay in giving the guidances and the robot carrying them out.
While the ISS is circling, there will also be breaks in transmission.
Bridget will also be in the dark and cast off from her usual energy source, solar power. She and Major Peake will have to accomplish the task before she “dies”.
But the biggest difficulty for the robot will be telling the difference between a shadow and rock; something rovers cannot do in dark situations. This is where the human element becomes crucial.
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