The LMRs' Role
Astronaut Limitations
The Big Picture
LMR Advantages
In-field LMR Control
Habitat LMR Control
Problem 1: Complication
Subsequent Problems
LMR Families
LMR Chain of Command
LMR Overdependency
Beyond Mission 2004
A Design Note
LMR Design
Systems Outline


Long Range LMR Control

This form of control, however, is limited to close-range, infield human manipulation. This is only a small side-benefit of the LMRs. The true usefulness of the LMRs can only be appreciated by considering the long-range control system for the LMRs.

The long-range control system for the LMRs will be situated at the Mars base/lander. This system will allow the human astronauts to control the LMRs through a high-level human-computer interface. Essentially, the LMRs will be controlled through high-level commands like: "visit point A," "run test B," "return visual data". The system must be balanced. It must not limit the astronauts as to the amount of control they can have over the LMRs, but must not present them with a dauntingly complicated means of communicating with the LMRs.

The system used for the pathfinder mission to Mars consisted of a three-dimensional virtual reality system that displayed a three-dimensional map of the Martian surface. Such a system would be ideal for intuitive human control. It would allow the humans to percieve the level of difficulty the LMRs might encounter in traversing the terrain. The astronauts would be capable of greatly assisting the onboard navigation devices by choosing what intuitively seems to be the best possible path to traverse.

The primary difficulty of such a system stems from the fact that the 3-dimensional data would have to be acquisitioned by the LMRs. This implies that unexplored terrain will not be represented as a 3 dimensional map, but as a 2 dimensional map generated from satellite imagery. With the onboard vision systems, the LMRs will be capable of reconstructing three dimensional models of the surrounding terrain. These will be used to guide the LMRs around close-range areas, and to guide future missions to the same areas.

Like the Pathfinder mission, the motion of the LMRs will be controlled by setting way-points. These are essentially points in three dimensional space that form objectives for the LMR navigation system. The LMRs must travel from point to point and can follow commands between and at each waypoint. For example, LMR 1 could be ordered to TRAVEL from A to B, RETURN VISUAL DATA from A to B, and RUN A GENERAL VISUAL SCAN at B. LMR 1's navigation system would control the travelling from A to B, while the vision and communication systems would return the visual data taken enroute from A to B. When LMR 1 reaches B it will take a panoramic visual scan of the terrain at B and return the imagery to the astronauts.

These commands could all be passed onto the LMRs through the 3-dimensional computer system. For data analysis, and the retrival of video and scientific data, standard computer terminals would be installed on the base/lander. These high-power workstations would have the software and video resolution required for detailed analysis of the transmitted data.

The astronauts would also have the option, under Earth-guidance, to alter the LMR programming to take into account possible situations and commands that have not been included in the control system. This would make the system open and customizable for the mission, and should help the astronauts make use of the varied features of the LMRs.

mitCopyright © 2000 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Comments and questions to Last updated: 10 December, 2000