ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli, who is currently on the ISS, was able to use the humanoid robot Rollin' Justin as an intelligent assistant for the first time on 25th August. This technology could potentially be used for repair work by robots on future mars missions.
The Italian astronaut controlled the robot Justin, located in Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich, from his outpost in space. But unlike the Kontur-2 mission, this experiment did not rely on direct remote control. Instead, the robot used its artificial intelligence to complete complex tasks in a semi-autonomous capacity. In other words, Nespoli did not actively control the robot but instead instructed the robot on how to complete the task.
This scenario is a paradigm for future exploration scenarios, in which entire fleets of robots will be deployed in preparation for the landing of human missions to Mars. During the experiment, the astronaut will be equipped with only a tablet PC with which he will instruct the robot in the same way one would interact with a colleague. The robot itself has the necessary capabilities to interpret and execute complex commands. For instance, the robot responds to the command “Inspect the solar panel” with a sophisticated sequence of actions, at the end of which it presents the astronaut with the necessary system information – entirely autonomously. This will allow Nespoli to service the solar farm at the Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics without actually being there. Justin is therefore the first robot to use artificial intelligence as a means of providing genuine assistance to astronauts.
The SUPVIS Justin experiment is part of the Multi-purpose End-To-End Robotic Operations Network (METERON) mission, which is scheduled to continue into 2018, when the German astronaut Alexander Gerst will also use Rollin' Justin to train for future Mars missions.