jfid – For the first time in history, a four-legged robotic dog, known as a robodog, has been remotely controlled by a human outside Earth’s atmosphere. Previously, only wheeled robots could be operated from hundreds of kilometers away in outer space.
Astronaut from the European Space Agency (ESA), Marcus Wandt, tested the robodog on the International Space Station (ISS) in early January 2024. The “Surface Avatar” test showcased Wandt controlling various robotic systems located on Earth.
This testing is part of a project aiming to enable humans on Earth or the ISS to control robots sent to other planets like Mars, including the Moon. Wandt controlled a dog-like robot named Bert, created by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), during the experiment.
The robot, equipped with four legs designed to traverse diverse terrains inaccessible to wheeled robots, can explore small caves unreachable by humans¹. By controlling the robodog, Wandt could navigate a DLR-created laboratory resembling Mars and monitor different terrains using cameras mounted on the robot’s eyes.
He also attempted to control two other robots, namely DLR’s Rollin’ Justin, a humanoid serving robot, and ESA’s Interact Rover. These robots can collaborate to perform tasks, including installing short pipes.
“It’s a special challenge when different robots have to form a team and successfully complete tasks together,” explained DLR in a statement. With this technological breakthrough, the team hopes that one day astronauts can control multiple robots during a space mission.
This robotic dog, named Bert, is part of a broader effort to leverage robotic technology in space exploration. Bert’s four legs are designed for traversal across various terrains, including small caves inaccessible to humans. This marks a significant advancement compared to wheeled robots previously used in similar missions.
In addition to Bert, Wandt also controlled two other robots: Rollin’ Justin and Interact Rover. Rollin’ Justin is a humanoid serving robot created by DLR, while Interact Rover is a robot developed by ESA. Both robots are designed to collaborate in completing tasks, such as installing short pipes.
This testing is part of a larger project aiming to empower humans on Earth or the ISS to control robots sent to other planets, such as Mars or the Moon. With this capability, astronauts can explore hazardous or challenging terrains without physically being present.
In their statement, DLR explained that this is a “special challenge when different robots have to form a team and successfully complete tasks together”. They hope that with this technological progress, astronauts will eventually be able to control multiple robots during a space mission.