Mobility systems for the robotic and human exploration of the Moon

Canada will play a major role in future surface exploration missions to the Moon. A key area of expertise in Canada is that of robotics and surface mobility systems. Mobility is critical for enabling the robotic and human exploration of the Moon and it is the hope of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), that Canada will contribute such systems to the international exploration effort.

To this end, the CLRN is interested in robotics both for pre-cursor lunar missions as well as for use during human exploration. The team involves both scientists and engineers in order to ensure appropriate technologies are developed. At UTIAS (often in partnership with MDA and CSA), work is ongoing to develop and field test key technologies for planetary rovers including: global self-localization appropriate to the lunar environment, visual odometry to estimate relative motion, visual homing to support sample return missions and EVA rescue, autonomous terrain assessment and path-planning for extreme terrain, and autonomous three-dimensional site mapping / localization for lunar worksite environments. Planned future work will include autonomous instrument deployment / site surveying, regolith sampling, and site preparation / excavation. These are some of the key technologies needed to enable lunar surface exploration and there are many others. The establishment of an LSI node will help to inform the selection of technologies develop by Canadian robotics researchers.

A number of CLRN researchers have significant expertise in mobile robots, telerobotics and mechatronic system design which will be directed at developing specialized robotic and other mechatronic systems that would be suitable for lunar exploration and collection and handling of lunar samples.

Dr. Barfoot and Dr. Osinski are involved in several ongoing concept studies being led by MDA and funded by the CSA for robotic and human mobility systems. This team of researchers is also working towards conducting science-driven robotic exploration missions at planetary analogue sites. These missions will help gather useful science, test robotic technologies, and help establish mission scenarios. A lead-in visit to Devon Island involving several CLRN members occurred in the summer of 2008.