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German astronaut directs humanoid robot from space

Justin is a humanoid robot being trained to carry out tasks that could eventually assist man’s efforts to set up shop on Mars.

Gerst, currently serving a stint as commander on the European Space Station ISS, on Friday (August 17) conducted a variety of tasks with Justin, directing the robot from space using a tablet.

This is the third experiment the German Aerospace Centre has carried out. To create a realistic scenario, Gerst and Justin had to work entirely alone without contact with the ground crew.

“In principle it works like this: Mister Gerst has a tablet up there and on this tablet he has a user interface that he uses to direct the robot. This interface has been kept very general. There are only very broad directives. He can say, for example, ‘Justin, Justin, drive to this place’ and then Justin has to go there and orient himself. Justin would then put the plug in the solar panel to get diagnostics and the robot would have to carry out all these things itself,” Gerst said.

A highlight of several successfully carried out tasks was Justin managing to successfully replace a smoking solar battery in a station module.

According to the Aerospace Centre the aim of the robots is to allow a realistic potential exploration of Mars in preparation for the possible introduction of man to the planet. The technology being tested by Gerst and the Institute for robotics could also be used for other more earthly problem solving, for example in construction and repair works that are dangerous for humans.

In May the Institute introduced their SMiLE project that uses robotics ti assist people working in the care sector to help aging patients or people with physical disabilities.

Gerst started his second mission ‘Knowledge for Tomorrow’ aboard the ISS on June 6. Until his return in December 2018 Gerst will take part in 67 European experiments, which are looking for solutions in health management, climate change and digitalisation.




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