Space Robotics Workshop

IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA)

Rome, Italy

14 April 2007




With the continued success of the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER), and plans for the NASA Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) and ESA ExoMars, it is clear that future planetary surface exploration will employ mobile robots. This workshop presents recent results from Mars operations, future rover mission designs, as well as related results from terrestrial field tests. Topics addressed include autonomous navigation and mobility in rough terrain, autonomous manipulation for instrument placement and sample acquisition, autonomous science data processing, system design and architecture, and operations interface design and use. Core technologies include natural terrain sensing, novel mobility system designs, computation-restricted software performance, power-restricted system performance, and telemetry-restricted remote commanding. While the current target of much research is Mars and Moon exploration, application to other planetary surfaces is foreseeable.


Robots can help astronauts in (orbital) space by reducing astronaut extra-vehicular activity (EVA) time by performing tasks that otherwise would be performed by astronauts, and by assisting astronauts during EVA. Associated topics include human-robot interfaces, robot-robot cooperation, zero-gravity locomotion, and robotic inspection and repair of space vehicles.


As space exploration mission durations increase, the need to reduce astronaut workload increases. Inspection, maintenance, and repair in space become more important for long duration space travel, such as for missions to the Moon and Mars. This workshop illuminates issues and potential solutions to the unique problems of robots in the zero-gravity, vacuum, and radiation environment of space.





Richard Volpe

Mobility & Robotics Systems Section Manager

Jet Propulsion Laboratory

California Institute of Technology


Rick Wagner

Northrop Grumman Space Technology



Motivation and Objective


Morning Session: A major objective is to gather representatives of the robotics community investigating new capabilities in autonomous planetary surface mobile robotics. Through presentation of results from large ongoing efforts, and through discussion with attendees, we capture a description of the current state of the art, and a sense of the challenges which still need to be addressed.


Afternoon Session:  Robotic assistance to astronauts in space has an enormous and almost untapped potential to facilitate space exploration. Reductions in EVA time for astronauts not only reduce astronaut workload, but lead to reduced mass for space suits, spare parts, and consumables. This workshop brings together the latest approaches to reaping these potential benefits for space exploration programs of nations all over the world.











Richard Volpe



Introduction to the Planetary Rovers Session



Rick Wagner


Northrop Grumman

Introduction to the Orbital Robotics Session



Planetary Rovers 

Brian Wilcox

Richard Volpe


ATHLETE: A Landing, Mobility, and Manipulation System for the Moon



Mark Maimone et al.



Overview of the Mars Exploration Rovers’ Autonomous Mobility and Vision Capabilities



Gianfiglio et al.

Luc Joudrier


The Rover Concept for the ESA ExoMars Mission



Simon Lacroix and Thierry Peynot



Selection and Monitoring of Rover Navigation Modes: A Probabilistic Diagnosis Approach



Roland Siegwart and Thomas Thueer

Thomas Thueer

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich

Evaluation and Optimization of Locomotion Performance of Rovers



Kazuya Yoshida and Keiji Nagatani

Kazuya Yoshida

Tohoku University

Terramechanics Based Analysis and Motion Control of Rovers on Simulated Lunar Soil



Dimi Apostolopoulos

Rick Wagner

CMU, Robotics Institute

Mobility of Planetary Systems



Matt Maniscalco et al.


Stanford University

A Design Concept for a Robotic Lunar Regolith Harvesting System



Frank Kirchner

Frank Kirchner

University of Bremen

AI-based Space Robotics: Reconfigurable Robot Teams for Exploration



Orbital Robotics 

Rick Wagner and Hobson Lane

Rick Wagner

Northrop Grumman

Lessons Learned on the AWIMR Project



William Singhose and Khalid Sorensen

William Singhose

Georgia Tech

Manipulation of Flexible Space Structures: Effects of Command Shaping and Human Interfaces



Brian Fast


ISS Lab, Cleveland State Universityy

A Form Based Control Algorithm for Reducing the Complexity of an Attitude Control System



Steve Dubowsky and Peggy Boning

Steve Dubowsky


The Coordinated Control of Space Robot Teams for the On-Orbit Construction of Large Flexible Space Structures



Hiroshi Ueno and Yasufumi Wakabayashi

Hiroshi Ueno


Force Fighting Analysis between Space Manipulator and Berthing Mechanism during On-orbit Assembly Operation



Marcello Romano


Naval Postgraduate School

Laboratory Experimental Validation of Autonomous Spacecraft Proximity Maneuvers





Other Information



Relation to previous ICRA and IROS workshops

Richard Volpe hosted similar Planetary rover workshops at IROS 1997and ICRA 2005, after the Pathfinder and MER missions.  Several of the presenters have participated in all workshops, providing a sense of progress over time.  For more information, see: