Astronauts aboard the International Space Station will get their shot this month at remotely piloting a lunar rover on Earth, according to NASA. The test is the final step in an ongoing project to develop future remote rover piloting on both the moon and Mars by astronauts in orbit.
Currently, rovers are controlled by preprogrammed software that responds to commands sent from Earth by scientists, a process that involves lengthy delays. Researchers are looking for a better scientific return on rover missions.
"This is a potential scientific scenario during future missions to the Moon and Mars," European Space Agency scientist William Carey, a principal investigator for the experiment, said in a NASA release. "Space is such a harsh place for humans and machines. Future exploration of the solar system may involve sending robotic explorers to test the waters on uncharted planets before sending humans."
This month's experiment will last two hours, while ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano attempts to control a lunar rover from an orbiting workstation in the ISS with a sensory-feedback joystick. Ground communications will assist Parmitano as he navigates the rover over moonlike terrain near the town of Noordwijk in the Netherlands.
NASA said the results will be particularly valuable as the organization looks to explore the moon during its moon-to-Mars Artemis program.