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Portuguese Researchers on Simulated Mission to Mars

Researchers from the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) will participate, through the development of robotic devices, in a human and robotic simulation mission to Mars in the Negev desert, Israel, known as AMADEE-20.

With the mission scheduled for 2020, the electronic devices which will be developed by Portuguese researchers who aim to improve the effectiveness of robotic exploration of the red planet without the need of on the spot observation from an astronaut as well as reduce and prevent accidents which render the equipment unusable.

From the 15th of October  to the 15th of November 2020, a group of researchers will take on the role of astronauts, located at a base in the Negev desert, which ‘simulates the environment on Mars.’ From there all communications will be sent to a ‘control centre’ in Innsbruck, Austria.

To reduce the risk of astronauts in ‘hostile environments’ like Mars – where in real life they would be exposed to extremely high thermal ranges, cosmic radiation, meteorites and dust storms – remote-controlled robots are used to ‘perform’ small tasks, said Rodrigo Ventura, a researcher at IST’s Institute of Systems and Robotics. In total sixteen experiments will be undertaken throughout the simulation, which includes technology and other areas such as medicine, biology and geology.

The ‘teleoperation’ of the robots is, however, ‘complicated’ when astronauts have no eye contact with the machines from the base and the ‘perception of the situation’ from the ground is ‘is poor’, thus compromising the robot’s performance.  However, a researcher said that they are currently studying new technology to improve overall performance.

The IST team is working in collaboration with the University of Graz, Austria, who will also build the robot.  The AMADEE-20 involves the Austrian Space Forum, an Austrian institution that has been conducting Mars expedition simulations, the Israeli space agency and the Israeli company D-Mars.

Samantha Gannon

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Madeira Weekly