Simulating Mars exploration, British astronaut guides rover from space

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 29, 2016 12:11 PM

LONDON (Reuters) - British astronaut Tim Peake drove a rover on Mars on Friday -- or at least pretended to by test-driving the exploration vehicle on earth remotely from space.

From the International Space Station (ISS) some 250 miles above earth, the European Space Agency astronaut guided rover prototype "Bridget" around a cave set up in an area simulating Mars's sandy and rocky surface in Stevenage, England.

The experiment was part of the Multi-Purpose End-To-End Robotic Operation Network (METERON) program looking at how astronauts can work robots from space.

Last year, Danish astronaut Andreas Mogensen guided from the ISS a rover on earth to insert a peg into a hole.

For Friday's mission at the Mars Yard Test Area, Peake was told just before the experiment that he would have to enter the cave and find painted targets before exiting it in 90 minutes.

He had to ensure Bridget came within two meters of each target, centered it, mapped it and alerted ground control.

"We're inside the cave and the first target has been identified," Peake could be heard telling mission control in Germany during the experiment which was live-streamed.

Delays between instruction and execution were expected, as were breaks in transmission.

(Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian, editing by Ed Osmond)