A group of researchers from Instituto Superior Técnico will be participating in AMADEE-24, a space simulation mission of an expedition to Mars, which will take place in Armenia, for a month. The Laboratory of Robotics and Engineering Systems (LARSyS) – represented by the Institute for Systems and Robotics (ISR-Lisboa) and the Institute for Interactive Technologies (ITI-LARSyS) – has been contributing to these missions since 2019. In addition to researchers Rute Luz and Jéssica Corujeira, and Principal Investigators José Luis Silva and Rodrigo Ventura, who participated in previous years, the MEROP experiment now also includes Aerospace Engineering students Mariana Campos and Inês Sousa, and Electrical and Computer Engineering students Gonçalo Coelho, Margarida Pereira, Ricardo Querido and Rui Abrantes.
During the AMADEE-24 mission, six analogue astronauts will live isolated in a habitat and will only be able to leave the site when using special spacesuit simulators. In addition to this experiment, which aims to be as realistic as possible for the astronauts, international teams of researchers are working on different scientific challenges associated with space exploration. At the habitat, the goal of MEROP will be to improve the teleoperation of remote rovers and to provide astronauts with a toolkit for troubleshooting.
Organised by the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF), these simulations are a major international collaborative effort for the development of space exploration. The official location and crew for the 2024 mission were announced in February, at the AMADEE-24 mission science definition workshop, which was attended by the Técnico researchers from the MEROP project.
“For AMADEE-24 we will use a teleoperation interface in which we can have a robot with several levels of autonomy. We will also use image argumentation to improve teleoperation and compensate for operational challenges, like situation awareness or rough terrains”, explains Rute Luz, who also adds that resulting experiments with this interface and teleoperation scenarios have already resulted in scientific papers, in which simulation with the rover would be on the moon with a 3 second operation delay.
The Austrian Space Forum is a citizen science institution led by professionals with around 230 members, that undertakes planetary surface operations to optimise remote science support. AMADEE-24 will be the 14th analogue mission to Mars organized by OeWF.