Haifa/Montreal, 9 August 2016, by Marit Meyer - Driving a rover remotely from the comfort of your own computer seems like it is straight out of a video game. So when I first heard of a ‘Robotic Planetary Exploration Analogue Mission' (RPEAM), I imagined a geeky adolescent on a computer with soda and chips at her or his side, working a joystick with greasy fingers and cheering when the rover mission goal was accomplished.
After learning more about the upcoming RPEAM taking place at ISU SSP, my first impressions were completely blown away. This activity is much harder than it sounds, and the ultimate goal is to educate a group of people on the complex and dynamic environment of robotic operations in space. The simulation is team-based and roles are assigned to participants who will execute their piece of the puzzle in an environment full of communication challenges, making critical decisions with trade-offs in the face of uncertainties, all within a time constraint.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that it is a competition between three teams, as well (to build the fun and excitement—SSP style). Erik Falk-Peterson, an Industrial Design Engineer from Norway, is a driver in the upcoming simulations, and gave me the nutshell description of the challenge. “We have to design our rover system within a power budget to enable the rover mobility and range as well as run the onboard science sensors which are looking for signs of life on Mars. Once the system is deployed, we won’t know where the rover will land in the tortuous terrain of the Canadian Space Agency’s Mars Yard. We have to plan a mission and be ready to adapt it in the face of potential system failures and new developments in a high-stress environment of multiple personalities and cultures.“ Many sponsors have come together to offer this learning experience, including the Canadian Space Agency’s Mars Yard, Mission Control Space Services, Inc., .
Follow the action live on social media, via hashtag #SSP16Mars.