Evolutionary Adaptive Robotic Systems to Support Lunar Exploration 2006-01-2020
This paper is based on preliminary results of a joint study performed by MDA and Hamilton Sundstrand which examines evolving adaptive robotics systems through early robotic and human missions to the moon. NASA has placed increased emphasis on the role of robotics in future lunar exploration. The recent NASA Exploration System Architecture Study (ESAS) outlines a strategy for human return to the moon that begins with robotic precursor missions, and is followed by a series of short sortie missions made by human-robotic teams. Robotic systems would be better utilized if they can evolve to support multiple stages of the lunar exploration strategy, rather than being designed for “single-shot” mission. For example, pre-cursor rovers could be upgraded to support a human-robot sortie team, and later could remain after the astronauts depart to complete and continue exploration tasks, possibly in co-operation with other robotic assets transported on the Lunar Surface Access Module.
This paper discusses methods of evolving robotic systems through earth-supervised autonomy on pre-cursor missions to local human co-operation during early manned missions and back to robot-only modes after or between manned sorties. We identify several Design Reference Missions (DRMs) and deconstruct their respective operations concepts to identify where robotic system capabilities must be added or adapted to allow transition through the various stages of robotic exploration. The paper discusses how human intervention may enable the necessary evolution through in-situ modifications to hardware, firmware and software. However, the paper also evaluates the extent to which it is realistic to incorporate the required degree of flexibility in a fixed device. The paper concludes by discussing design concepts that support system adaptability and future plans to further develop these concepts.