Etna like the Moon, Esa rover tests on volcano

Jun 30, 2022 236

Etna like the Moon: on the slopes of the volcano, tests of the European Space Agency's (Esa) autonomous rover, called Interact, which is to collect samples on our satellite, are in fact underway. The simulation, running until July 9, 2022, was organized by the German Aerospace Center (Dlr) with a major participation of Esa, and will allow to verify the operation of the robot in view of the future Lunar Gateway space station.

Esa astronaut Thomas Reiter will control the vehicle located at an altitude of 2,600 meters from the nearby city of Catania, 23 kilometers away, simulating the situation that future occupants of the Lunar Gateway will encounter.

This is not the first outing for the Interact rover: in 2019 it was controlled by Esa astronaut Luca Parmitano directly from the International Space Station (Iss), but since then it has received several upgrades to enable it to better withstand outdoor environments. This type of autonomous robot is considered a key technology of the future that will become vital for conducting research in harsh environments, not only on the Moon or other planets but also on Earth, such as in the deep sea.

Interact, which weighs about 300 kilograms, can do much more than provide images of its surroundings: its state-of-the-art sensors allow astronauts to experience the planet's surface in exactly the same way as the rover, even providing a sense of the weight and composition of the rocks it touches.

The goal is to take samples from the Moon with the help of a person aboard the lunar space station and a control room on Earth.

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