Space Robot Revolution (2015) - full transcript

What do space robots look like? Why and how can they lead space missions successfully? To what extent will they collaborate with astronauts or take their place? Find out what is in ...

[Narrator] Outer space,
the ultimate frontier.

A world above us that has
fascinated man's imagination

Since the beginning of time.

Dark, dangerous, inaccessible,
but a world filled

with possibilities since
1957, thanks to Sputnik

and it's world famous
robot Beeps, the first

in outer space.

I believe that this
immense genius you know,

to explore and to try to
understand what is out

there and how is it functioning.

[Narrator] For 60
years engineers have sent

hundreds of robots into space.

Although led by the
Russians and the Americans,

France has excelled in this area, thanks

to Arianespace and it's astronauts.

Using astronauts however, is dangerous.

So much so that they are
being replaced by robots.

[Translator] We send
robots into space because

it costs 100-1000 times
less than sending men.

[Translator 2] The robot
is the means we employ

to explore what we
cannot absorb ourselves.

[Narrator] In the
1960's, space exploration

represented an immense
challenge, adding great

prestige to the nation's that succeeded.

The present philosophy
is completely different.

Aimed at preparing a new world for man.

[Translator] To save the
human race, there is only

one solution, learning to
live on other heavenly bodies.

[Narrator] To accomplish
this goal, engineers

are developing incredible robots.

Machines with no fear of
cosmic radiation or the

void of outer space or extreme
changes in temperature.

Almost immortal robots
which never become obsolete.

A robot it definitely
a machine that can be

programmable, that means
can be autonomous or not.

[Translator] Creating
a robot that can operate

24/7 is where the difficulties begin.

The robotic system's with
some form of artificial

intelligence, they are
appropriate and cheap ways

to do this kind of
exploration, to find out what

is going on on other planets.

This will tell us a lot
also about our own home.

[Narrator] In order
to better understand our

solar system, we need to
send scientific robots

into space.

The first of these are either
scout robots, for making

space probes or landers
which can touch down

on a star or a planet and
make initial on site analysis.

(slow suspenseful music)

The next generation, the
rovers are autonomous

super vehicles like
Curiosity that can move

around the surface of Mars.

Containing instruments for
analysis and exploration

which enable Curiosity
to discover the presence

of water on the red planet.

The next step will come from
much stranger laboratories

where engineers are developing CoBots

or collaborative robots.

Animal or humanoid robots
will be used to assist

astronauts by exploring
dangerous areas and building

space stations.

And soon there will be
robots for cleaning up

outer space and for helping
man to live on another planet.

The countdown has begun for
the incredible adventure

of the space robot revolution.

(slow mysterious music)

Throughout history, man has
always been an explorer,

an adventurer, crossing
continents, navigating oceans,

and flying faster and higher in the sky.

Today, thanks to
technological progress, robots

are being sent into
space and this conquest

always begin with scout robots.

Very simple but reliable.

Capable of traveling millions
of kilometers in space.

(upbeat suspenseful music)

There are two types of
scout robots, space probes

or orbiters, equipped with
cameras for photographing

the stars above them.

And landers which consist
of metal boxes filled

with sensors for analyzing
the ground of a comet

like for example, Rosetta
and Philae, the two

European mission robots
studying the comet Chury.

We head for the limits of outer space.

450 million kilometers from planet Earth.

In the early 1990's,
European engineers decided

to send a probe around a
comet and to deploy a lander

on its surface.

For a quarter of a
century, a thousand people

throughout the world have been working

on the Rosetta program.

An almost impossible mission.

The launching took place on March 2, 2004,

and after a 10 year
journey, a robot landed

on a comet for the first time in history.


How exciting!

How unbelievable to be able to dare

to land on a comet.

We are the first to
have done that and that

will stay forever.

Hollywood is good but Rosetta is better.


(upbeat music)

[Narrator] The French
National Center for Space

Studies in Toulouse is home
to the SONC, the center

for the navigation and control
of the scientific mission

where a special team watches and chaperons

the missions two robots,
Rosetta and Philae 24/7.

[Translator] We send
robots into space because

a robot costs between 100-1000
times less than a man.

95% of the missions don't return to Earth.

The only ones that do
come back with samples,

and they are very, very
rare and so we execute

primarily robotic missions.

[Narrator] Philae's
descent lasted seven hours

and the lander touched down 100 meters

from the projected site.

[Translator] We
weren't able to determine

at what moment we would
land and under what

conditions and so there
was an electronic brain

on board capable of
making certain decisions

as to the best time to land.

We're giving it a certain
degree of autonomy.

[Narrator] An insufficient
degree of autonomy

since the electronics
weren't well developed enough

having been created around the year 2000.

At the moment of contact
with the comet, Philae's

anchoring harpoons and its
boosters did not function

and the robot bounced
like a tennis ball once,

then twice, after which
it flew above a crater

and bounced a third time
before setting down between

two rocks about a kilometer
and a half further on.

(slow hypnotic music)

To avoid this kind of
problem, millions of miles

from Earth without any
possible intervention

by engineers, scientists are now working

on much more precise landings.

We head for the Thales
Alenia Space Laboratories

in Turin, Italy where the
initial tests of an exceptional

Mars landing scenario
are being carried out.

For the first time the robots
are equipped with cameras.

The images are analyzed in
real time by an algorithm

that indicates without the
intervention of an engineer,

the best site for landing.

This technology which is
used on Earth for drones

has never been validated for space.

(slow piano music)

This is very important
for future missions

to have a, we can say a new sensor on board

that is like an eye for us, is a camera.

Up to now, no mission
on Mars can use a camera

for landing.

In this way, using a
camera and the software,

it will awaken the picture,
we can reach much higher

precision in the landing.

Just one shot mission in
case of travel, we lose

the mission.

[Narrator] And millions
or perhaps billions

of Euros as well.

In sending landers, space
agencies have learned

how to land even if
the danger of the crash

is very high.

Scientists therefore,
wanted to go a step further

by sending rovers to the moon and to Mars.

All sorts of machines have
been imagined to counter

the exceptional constraints
of a different gravity

from that of Earth.

Temperatures ranging from -140

to +30 degrees celsius.

Corrosion and radiation.

After the rovers were
created, engineers equipped

them with ultra-sophisticated options.

Rovers have thus become
portable laboratories

capable of taking samples
and observing elements

through a microscope.

The first rovers landed on
the moon during the 1970's.

30 years later they landed on Mars.

Since 1997, four rovers
have been moving around

the red planet.

(slow hypnotic music)

[Translator] In the final
years of the 20th century,

we began to launch the
first martian robots,

including a very important
one called Pathfinder.

It was about this high
and was already on Mars

in 1997.

Thanks to Pathfinder, we
realized that to thoroughly

explore Mars, robots
have to move and drive

around the surface.

The terrain was so
diverse, we had to see each

rock, each stone to
learn where it came from,

how it was created, and why it was there.

This realization
encouraged NASA, the leader

in this area, to develop
bigger and better rovers,

which in France are called astromobiles.

And so, after Pathfinder
came Spirit and Opportunity.

These robots which
landed perfectly in 2004,

were designed to function
for a few months covering

a distance of a few kilometers.

Opportunity is in fact
in operation after more

than 10 years and after
having traveled 40 kilometers.

It has therefore surpassed
its life expectancy,

making some very fascinating discoveries.

(slow dramatic music)

[Narrator] Back to Turin in Italy.

Thales Alenia Space is
the principal project

manager of Exomars, the
first European mission

to the red planet.

With a budget of 1.2 billion euros,

the challenge is immense.

In a few weeks the first
robots will be launched

after a two year delay.

The mission is a very
challenging mission.

Sending a robot on Mars is the first time

the Europeans sent a robotic
element on another planet.

[Narrator] The Schiaparelli
module should land

on Mars in or late 2016.

Entering the atmosphere at
21,000 kilometers an hour,

after which a parachute
will open to slow down

the capsule which will
descend at mach two,

twice the speed of sound.

The deceleration will last eight minutes

before landing gently
in the Meridianic plane

at less than 15 kilometers an hour.

In 2018, the scenario will
be the same but this time

a rover will be released
in the direction of Mars

making it the first European
astromobile on the planet.

Other challenging feat is
to figure to control the rover

on the soil of Mars.

Because we have not to
forget the time delay.

I mean, the signal coming
from Mars could take

up to 20 minutes of
delay, it means that what

we see on the screen
it is 20 minutes late.

SO, when we plan the
operation, we have to consider

that what we see is already
happened on the soil

of Mars.

In order to have the
signal we have a satellite

orbiting around Mars,
so the signal has to be

sent from the rover to the satellite,

from the satellite to the ground.

[Narrator] This is why
for Thales Alenia Space's

martian lander engineer
Ciro Napolitano is working

on the software which
will be installed aboard

the rover in 2018.

[Translator] We will
program this vehicle which

we are going to use to travel
around the martian soil.

It was designed to surmount
obstacles such as rocks

and to explore the terrain.

This is our control station.

In the center we can see
the rover with its wheels.

There are two parameters,

the speed and the angle.

On Mars, this rovers maximum speed will be

5cm per second.

We'll use 3cm per second
for testing purposes.

[Narrator] An extremely
slow speed, averaging

180 meters an hour, the rover is therefore

the most expensive and
slowest vehicle in the world.

This is perfectly normal
since on Mars, it will

be impossible from a distance
of 350,000,000 kilometers

from Earth to repair it should
it get stuck in the sand

or break down.

The hope is that it will be
as effective as Curiosity,

the American super rover
which cost 2.5 billion dollars

and which landed on Mars in 2012 after

an eight month journey.

It's the largest of
all the rovers designed

by NASA and it's successful
landing was hailed

by scientists as well
as the American public.

(slow patriotic music)

Curiosity is a very large
rover three meters long,

two meters 70 wide, and two meters high.

It has six wheel drive
and a nuclear battery

supplying the energy.

It has been traveling
around Mars for three years,

making extraordinary discoveries.

[Translator] We discover a new landscape

that no one's ever seen before, every day.

It's a geological robot.

[Translator] We're studying
the power of a nuclear

reactor in one square centimeter.

[Narrator] No less
than 7,000 people worked

on the Curiosity robot.

It's four times heavier
than NASA's two previous

martian rovers.

[Translator] And instead
of an eight kilo payload,

it will have a 90 kilo
payload, that's huge.

It's a scientist's dream.

What makes this object so
valuable are the scientific


The fact that it's on wheels,
that it has antenna's,

a source of energy, and
camera's is important,

but the true value for science
is it's scientific payload.

[Narrator] Among the
scientific instruments

aboard Curiosity, two are French.

The SAM, a mini laboratory
for analyzing the soil

and ChemCam, a laser
camera, the only one of its

kind in the world.

[Translator] It's a
technique that enables

us to determine from a
distance the composition

of the rocks and the martian soil.

[Translator] A laser
sheds its light on a rock

by creating a plasma
or a small 8,000 degree

light, a little spark.

Then with a telescope and by decomposing

the light of this plasma,
we can tell if the rock

is made of iron, sulfur, titanium, barium,

lithium, or even hydrogen.

[Narrator] The ChemCam
is the eye that recognizes

the rocks and guides the rover.

After three years of
this mission, we fired

more than 250,000 from this rover.

Every day 100 people throughout the world

get together for a huge
telephone conference call

in order to organize
the robot's work plan.

(slow piano music)

- [Female Over Intercom]
We have the kilometer

priorities here and we
wanted to see of that

part's clear.

So when the rising
broken rocks we use, rare

opportunity which not miss.

[Narrator] Tonight in
Toulouse, the ChemCam

team is preparing to fire
at three particularly

interesting martian stones.

The objective in cooperation
with NASA is a 45 minute

series of laser firings.

[Translator] We're in business now.

We requested three targets,
three rocks on which

we'll fire at 30 shots each,
making 150 laser firings

three times for each.

We therefore programmed
450 firings, now we have

to refine everything,
including the coordinates

of the targets, determining
where the sun will be

at the moment we fire,
and where the arm is.

It's not a question of firing
above, if it's deployed.

The rover's stability,
it's incline, the resources

we need in terms of
energy and the telemetry

will determine our ability
to repatriate the data

generated by the rover.

We'll be working on the
resources, security,

and the operation as a whole.

It's not just the Americans,
there are about 100

of us here guiding the
rover and each of us

gives his instructions.

And we'll try to organize
them into a comprehensive

plan to place aboard
in the next few hours.

[Narrator] NASA has
given the green light

and so it's time to program ChemCam's

450 laser firings.

- [Female Over Intercom]
We have 135.4 meters

until our next (mumbles) update.

[Translator] Everything
is in fact centralized

at NASA in Los Angeles.

We send them our files
tonight and they'll put

all the files for all the
instruments into a huge


Once the package is full
for the entire date,

the program is sent to the robot on Mars.

It will execute the program
sequence when it wakes

up tomorrow morning.

There are only six of
us in the world capable

of digging holes on Mars
and we're all at the CNES

in Toulouse.

We're fortunate in that we're
pioneers, digging the first

holes on a planet we're exploring.

It's the chance of a lifetime.

[Narrator] A unique
chance as well for two other

French teams dealing with the SAM.

This instrument is in fact
an ultra sophisticated

laboratory consisting
of a spectrometer which

analyzes the molecules, another instrument

for chromatography, which
separates them and 74

many ovens.

In short, the SAM analyzes the samples

from the martian soil.

And it's the SAM in fact
confirm the presence

of water on Mars.

(slow suspenseful music)

[Translator] Thanks to
all of SAM's instruments,

the laboratory made this discovery.

After heating the soil
sample, we understood

and by putting all the data
together, we discovered

that at one time on Mars on
the site where we are now,

there was a lake.

It wasn't a huge surprise
as we were expecting it

but the lake was very
shallow and it was a fresh

water lake, no salt, no
acid, or mud and so the water

was drinkable.

By lake we mean a dense
atmosphere, something which

lasted an indeterminate amount
of time with an inviolate

reducer, that's a bit
technical, with sources

of carbon, hydrogen,
nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorous,

all of which could one day create life.

By putting these physical
and chemical parameters

together, we can conclude
that Mars was once livable.

That is an enormous discovery
because only two years

ago I was convinced that the only planet

in the solar system that
could sustain life was Earth.

And now I can say of the
eight planets, four telluric

and four giant planets that in the history

of our solar system,
there were two habitable

planets, probably at the
same time, Earth and Mars.

[Narrator] During
future missions to the red

planet, scientists will try
to study the subsurface.

The common goal, in fact,
of NASA and the Europeans

Space Agency is to dig
one or two meters deep

in order to search for traces of life,

elements shelters from the
cosmic rays and protected

by the layer of martian soil.

To do so, however, requires
an incredibly powerful

drilling machine.

(slow suspenseful music)

We head for California
and Honeybee Robotics,

a company that has been working with NASA

for 20 years.

Most of their equipment
is aboard American landers

and rovers.

At the moment, they are
preparing for the next

Mars mission scheduled for 2020.

By trying to perfect a
deep drilling technology

especially designed for Mars.

So this drill is, has
been designed to capture

samples from at least one
meter depth on planetary


It usually was designed
for exploration of Mars.

Mars sees a lot of radiation
so in order to capture


We have to go at least
a meter down where they

have been potentially
preserved in the subsurface.

[Narrator] Thanks to
this invention, scientists

should be able to obtain
rock samples that have

not been exposed to
radiation or cosmic rays.

And perhaps find traces of life.

We set off a drill that captures powder.

At the end of the arm it
will have a coring drill

to capture rock samples,
put them in a cache

and deposit the cache as the
rover traverses the planet.

And when after that
mission is done, it's gonna

take a couple of years.

There's gonna be another
mission, it's gonna

go in and pick up some
of these rock samples,

sort of like bread crumbs that are sitting

on the surface of Mars.

Its gonna catch them, put
them on top of a rocket.

That rocket is gonna
launch these rocks around

the martian orbit and then
there's gonna be another mission.

And that mission is gonna
capture these flying rocks

and bring them back to Earth.

We're thinking it's gonna
probably take 20 years

before we see those rocks.

[Translator] For us,
the prize is bringing

back the samples from Mars.

Going to Mars, collecting
samples which could

prove that life once
existed there and bringing

them back to Earth.

And afterwards determining
if this life is based

on DNA like ours or not.

Which is a huge question mark.

If we could answer this
query, we will have

a different vision of
how life first appeared.

The only example we have
now is life on Earth.

The day we have a second
example we can begin

to generalize on how life
appeared in the universe.

[Narrator] This precious
information is obtainable

for us or rather for robots.

Although it will require
even more perfected

and more multipurpose machines.

Martian rovers are becoming more and more


Greatly increasing our
knowledge trying to answer

questions such as, does
water still flow on Mars?

Could this planet be habitable?

Was it once inhabited?

Questions which have troubled scientists

for years.

To answer them, new
kinds of robots will have

to be invented and deployed.

After the rovers which
belong to the 2nd family

of space robots, we have
co-robots or CoBots,

designed to work for or with man.

A new era is on the horizon
representing an unprecedented

cooperation in the history of humanity.

Everything has changed in
less than a century on Earth

as well as in space.

The technological revolution
has shaken our era

to the point where everything
seems possible today,

even in the infinity of the universe.

First there was scout
robots, the first space


Then came laboratory robots
with rovers that moved

around the planets.

And now the adventure
continues with collaborative

robots, CoBots, which space
agencies will be sending

to today's objective number one, Mars.

The closest planet to
Earth, its twin sister.

Recent discoveries have
motivated scientists

even further.

[Translator] Give me a ticket to Mars

and I'll leave tomorrow.

[Narrator] Tomorrow of
course is not a reality

for man.

Mars is still too far and too dangerous

a destination for astronauts.

No one has up to now been able to master

the technique for such a mission.

Although preparations are under way.

Space agencies throughout
the world are working

on the possibilities,
although not only for man.

All over our planet,
scenarios for living on Mars

are being tested.

According to specialists,
in 20 or 30 years,

technology will be
advanced enough to send men

to Mars or place them
in orbit around Mars,

with the help of new companions, CoBots.

Without which, such missions
would be impossible.

(slow dramatic music)

[Translator] Once we've sent them there,

we'll need robots to perform
the menial repetitious

tasks so as not to waste
human time and also

for tasks that are too
difficult or too dangerous.

[Narrator] More complex
than simple rovers

and more autonomous and intelligent, these

robots will work in
perfect harmony with highly

trained astronauts.

Space is a very tough
environment, there's

nothing that is really
very good for man's health

so we need to have some
machines to go there and do

some parts at least of the exploration.

In the future, these
robots can prepare simple

human tasks and prepare
the imminent of humans

on a planetary surface.

In our lab we work in a
very nice interplay between

engineering and biology.

[Narrator] CoBots resistant to radiation

and extreme temperatures
and the void will be able

to work side by side with the astronauts.

Scout CoBots resembling
animals or CoBot technicians

capable of preparing the
habitation basis represent

an essential step for
man's survival in our new

conquest of space, aiming
higher and higher still.

Lausanne in Suitzerland
is home to the Polytechnic

School which includes
five universities, 350

laboratories, and almost
10,000 students from about

a 100 different countries.

There are very few
laboratories like this one

in the world where animals
are filmed and x-rayed

in order to understand
their locomotion techniques.

After which scientists
try to try to apply them

to the interior of robots.

It's very expensive to
send something out of space

so that means that you
need to embed in these

machines a lot of
possibilities to move around,

to recharge the batteries,
and to perform better.

So I guess a move to locomotion capability

that any, sorry, that
robots inspired by animal

provide us are one of
the key factors for space


[Narrator] Another example
is this salamander robot.

Amphibians are interesting
because they can live

both on land and in water
and can adapt to either


This is exactly what
interests Camilo whose

robot copies the way a
salamander moves thanks

to 11 motors in the
robots spine and 16 others

in its feet.

SO we have this prowling
posture, so basically

we can access some places
that other robots cannot.

So for example we can pass
underneath very, very,

tiny passages like this.

So, with this posture we
can do that kind of things.

At the same time, with
the same robot, remember

this move to locomotion
capability, this one can

also swim with this
carnivore because we have

the whole spine adapt for
that thing and we have

the feet for the same reason.

The problem is performance.

If you go to space and you were to travel

10 kilometers in surface
of a planet for example,

of course this robot is not
the best for doing that.

I guess in that case wheels are better.

But if the wheels can
take this robot to some

other place where you
can go for a focus task

I guess the robot is perfect.

So I guess the combination
of the two robots

are, is the key to really
go to space correlation.

In this case for planetary exploration.

[Narrator] Multi-functional
and organically inspired

robots are also being developed in Bremen

at the Center for Robotic Innovation.

This North German city
possesses numerous space robot

laboratories, and especially the DFKI,

specializing in artificial intelligence.

Scientists are working
on a variety of programs

in cooperation with
German and other European

space agencies.

In the laboratories we
wanted to humanoid robots

like AILA or animal robots
such as iStruct, CREX,


Now head for the institutes
clean room where project

LIMES is being conducted
consisting of tests

on a gigantic praying mantis.

(upbeat music)

Oh, well.


That's a six-legged
walking robot and which

is also calibrated to
lift up the front body

to be able to manipulate
something with its

front legs and do what
they require for planetary

exploration on Mars.

They need systems which
are capable to traverse

on very unstructured
surfaces and then if they

are able to traverse the
surface that they also have

to be able to perform
some manipulation tasks

in the area which they calibrated to reach

and so for example to
collect samples or also

to maintain or setup
infrastructure on the surfaces.

[Narrator] The project
is funded by the German

Space Agency which
considers this robot insect

a key to future missions
on Mars or the moon.

(upbeat frantic music)

If you really have to
look at MANTIS, then MANTIS

is, I think the only insect
which is really capable

to perform more or less
precise manipulation tasks.

[Narrator] The RMC,
the German Space Agency's

robotic laboratory is located
in Wessling, near Munich.

There are articulated
arms everywhere, mounted

on different types of
robots, humanoid robots

or rovers.

Specialists are trying to
determine the best man robot

interface to command them.

Some prefer the joystick,
others the exoskeleton.

The goal is to command
these robots in real time

on the lunar or the martian soil.

Robots capable of
reproducing the movements

of the astronauts sheltered
safely in their base.

Only the scenario is tested here.

For 20 years, DLR engineers
have been developing

the technology for robotic arms.

In recent years they have
designed a hand with four

fingers since the fifth
serves no purpose and is

more expensive to manufacture.

At present they are working
on a robot controlled

by another robot.

(upbeat music)

[Translator] To get
ready I use two different


First, a glove with sensors that enable us

to measure the position of the fingers.

And which will be used
to manipulate the hand

by remote control.

I also use a man-machine
interface to which I

attach myself and which allows me to send

orders to the robots
like the position I want

to reach and also to feel what the robot

feels since this robot
will either push or pull

my hand based on what
the distant robot feels.

[Narrator] The energy
feedback is what enables

astronauts to command a
robot with more finesse,

thus avoiding any equipment damage.

And at the heart of the
space vessel or base,

this is essential.

[Translator] By hitting
this pedal, I can feel

the robot moving from a distance.

And I can direct it.

IF I enter into contact
with the environment,

I can feel on this robot
here an energy feedback

at the level of the
wrist, which makes it easy

for me to look for contact
with certain objects.

I can feel the force that
I apply to this button.

If it's too hard then
there's definitely an error

and I can stop it and take
the time to think things out.

Conducting a mission
outside of the international

space station is very dangerous and costly

and there are several
tasks that even a simple

robot can execute such as
manipulating the switches

or checking that a valve is shut tight.

It's worth it to be
prepared in advance before

the astronaut arrives on the site and that

can save a lot of time.

[Narrator] Space Justin
is scheduled to arrive

at the ISS in 2020 and join Rovina II,

the American robot.

To work with the
astronauts, all of the space

agencies prefer to develop
robots with a human

shape and the reason is obvious.

We don't want to scare the humans off.


If we built a robot that
looks like it's terminator,

you know, with red glaring eyes and,

metal face, it will be just,
a psychological problem

for humans to interact with
these kinds of machines,

so, that's why we gave
AILA also a female shape

because we had all these
human, all these humanoid

robots in the world, they
are all strong, terminator

kind of robots and we
thought, okay we do it

a different way, we give
it a more nicer shape.

[Narrator] Humanoids
are veritable CoBots

or collaborator robots.

They can open up a
valve and airlock, press

a button, but they can
remain in orbit around

the base at least in the beginning.

It will be necessary to
send animal type robots

or rovers which have
proven their reliability

on the martian or lunar soil.

Equipped with robotic
arms, they can be deployed

for general tasks, building
places to live or assembling


These highly autonomous
machines will be able

to learn about the terrain
thanks to algorithms

of artificial intelligence.

(slow instrumental music)

We now go to Holland the
European Center for Space

Research and Technology.

Situated between Amsterdam and the Hague.

The teams working in the
Telerobotics Laboratory

are preparing an experiment
unique in the world.

A rover with two arms
will be guided by remote

control from the ISS.

The orbital station located
400 kilometers above

our heads.

So it's preparing the
future of exploration

missions that make use of humans in orbit

of planetary bodies and
robots on the surface

to project actually the
human presence into the robot

onto the surface.

Our technology actually
enables robots to do this

remote controlled by humans
in a very interactive

and intuitive way.

[Narrator] Aboard the
ISS, Danish astronaut

Andreas Mogensen will be
required to use a joystick

with energy feedback to
directly command a robot.

The rover has to simply
insert a metal tube

into a structure but it's
a lot more complicated

than one would think.

This pin, it only has
a tolerance of about

100-150 micrometers to the hole,

so when you try it
yourself, you see how easily

it actually jams if you have like a small

misalignment from it
then you can't insert it.

In fact, it has to be totally precise.

[Narrator] For this
experiment to be successful

one has to rely on ones senses.

The innovation of the
force feedback is important

because it enables astronauts
in orbit to actually

feel what a robot does
somewhere else, either

in another location in
space or on a planetary

surface and this way he
can do tasks very naturally

as if he would be present
physically at that site.

So if you imagine handling
a raw egg or actually

doing very complex tasks
like lacing your shoe

or inserting a connector
in the back of your TV set,

these are all tasks
that require you to feel

the geometry and what we
transmit here is exactly

this feeling, so it
helps him to accomplish

this complicated task.

[Narrator] The experiment
reproduces a scenario

which could take place
in a few years between

a rover on Mars and a
space station orbiting

around the planet.

In the ISS, which navigates
at 28,000 kilometers

an hour, the Danish
astronaut has less than one

hour to carry out the
experiment, with no knowledge

of interface or joystick
and who has never piloted

the rover.

(upbeat frantic music)


Our robots actually
transmits this sense of touch

to the human operator
and with the first time

in the history of space
flight to actually extend

this sense of touch over
distances between space

and ground or between space
and any planetary surface.

[Narrator] The success
of this type of experiment

allows specialists to project
themselves into the future

and imagine the construction
of bases in outer space.

On Mars for NASA, on the
moon for the European

space agency which would
like to setup a village

to replace the ISS when it
seizes operations in 2024.

(slow dramatic music)

[Translator] Once we've
landed men there it becomes

a habitat.

The work around the
habitat entails a minimum

of 10, 15, or 20 tons.

We don't know how to do it
but we're working on it.

We think that the first
man martian flights

will be flights where
man remains in orbit.

In order for man's
presence to be effective,

we feel that they should
be able to command

robots on the surface in
real time by remote control.

We can't do this from Earth
because of the distance

which prevents us from
telecommanding in real time

like an airplane pilot
who can push a button

and immediately activate his joystick.

We've got to be able to do
this while orbiting Mars.

[Narrator] After the
CoBots which will assist man

during their extraplanetary
missions, a 4th family

of robots will be more and more vital.

Protean robots which can
serve as refuse collectors,

skilled workers, or shuttle pilots.

In 10 or 20 years, man
will live in outer space

thanks to all sorts of robots.

This is not a Utopian
concept but an opportunity

that space agencies and
private companies want

to seize since space is
becoming a new multi-billion

dollar business.

(slow hectic music)

We've come a long way from
the Star Wars era when

the United States and the
Soviet Union were the only

nations in outer space.

Today, dozens of space
agencies throughout the world

as well as private companies
are developing systems

to study the cosmos.

Work on all the planets and
send robots and satellites


After the reign of the
scout robots, followed by

laboratory rovers and
CoBots, there is one final

category, robots whose
role it is to cleanup

outer space.

Once completely devoid of
debris before the launching

of Sputnik, space has been
filling up at an alarming

rate for the past 60 years.

Today, there are a
thousand or so satellites

in operation and 900 more to
come in the next few months.

In addition to space debris
and the billions of meteorites

circulating at the incredible
speed of 30,000 kilometers

an hour.

[Translator] A one
millimeter in diameter debris

has the same energy as
a bowling ball launched

at a speed of 100 kilometers an hour.

In a long-term if nothing
is done, it's possible

that the space infrastructure
will become unusable.

[Narrator] The international
community is working

on a global solution to
combat this debris which

increases exponentially
every year threatening

satellites that are a useful
part of our daily lives.

Outer space therefore,
will have to be cleaned up

using a new type of
robot so that the debris

doesn't fall on our heads one day.

[Translator] We've
cataloged objects of this size

reentering the atmosphere
on a daily basis.

Either a large satellite
or a large satellite stage

reentering at a rate of one per week.

And when they reenter
the atmosphere, they heat

up enormously, slow down and break up.

Does everything burn, no, not everything.

10, 20, or even 40% of the
mass can survive and thus

impact the surface of the Earth.

The primary danger of this
debris is the possibility

of a human victim.

(upbeat frantic music)

The 2nd and more immediate
danger is for a satellite


If you launch a large
satellite there is a 5% risk

of it dying before it's time.

As a result of a collision
with space debris,

creating a direct financial impact.

The 3rd danger is in the long-term.

Occasionally, two large
objects collide, such as was

the case in 2009 between Kosmos 2251

and Iridium 33.

Such a crash generates
about 5,000 large pieces

of debris.

The multiplication of
debris due to collisions

makes us a bit wary of
the long-term future.

[Narrator] Dozens of
small, less eccentric

projects are being imagined
by engineers to gather

the debris and eliminate it.

One such idea is based on
the concept of spear fishing.

Another is using navigators
with a huge self-folding sail,

then there's the star wars
technique with laser fire,

or the bombarding of ions.

There's an even more
surprising technique using

flypaper or even deploying a huge net.

Finally, there's the medical
technique with a clamp

fixed onto a hunter robot.

Each method has its
advantages and disadvantages,

but the most common
strategy among manufacturers

is that of a robotic arm
mounted on a hunter robot.

This is the technique being
developed by the engineers

at Airbus Defense and Space in Bremen.

Equipped with a 3D sensor
for seizing all sorts

of stones as if they were
lost debris in space,

the robotic arms capacity is being tested

in the Airbus laboratory.

[Translator] We have
fairly similar technologies

for captures in orbit and for
seizing objects on a lunar

or martian surface.

Here, we have a 3 dimensional sensor.

We're trying to combine
an autonomous and a manual

approach with this system.

Because in any kind of space exploration,

communication time between
Earth and distant heavenly

bodies is fairly long.

And so if we try to do it
all manually, each operation

will take a very long time.

What we want to do now is
have an autonomous system,

meaning that it's capable
of selecting objects

on its own, calculating
their position and seizing

them, giving us great
operational flexibility.

For this experiment, we have
a sensor with three pincers

four relatively simple
objects like stones.

When we switch to the
debris system in orbit,

we need more complex
interfaces and we're developing

a system capable of
seizing the orbital debris

using a complex geometry.

[Narrator] At present,
there is no international

legislation requiring companies
to remove their debris

from outer space.

Cleaning up space however,
is becoming necessary

since every year, the
increasing amount of debris

threatens satellites in
orbit above the Earth.

Robots which cost a total
of more than 100 billion

dollars are also threatening
this new outer space


One such business, Swiss
Space Systems or S3 is located

in the Swiss city of Payerne.

S3 wants to send small
satellites into space

for 10 million euros.

Four times cheaper than its competitors.

Their secret lies in reusable technology

with an entirely automatic
aircraft and space shuttle.

Once the right altitude
is reached, the shuttle

releases a capsule in
which satellites have been

installed, the shuttle
then makes a gentle landing

without a pilot.

([Translator)Today the
SOAR decides to launch

satellites weighing 250
kilos in heliosynchronous

orbit or SSO, at an
altitude of 700 kilometers.

This represents tomorrows
satellite market.

They were characterized
as small satellites.

Today we're witnessing a paradigm shift

in the area of space satellites.

We're going from huge satellites launched

in geostationary orbit
at very high altitudes

like 36,000 kilometers
to a range of smaller,

lighter, low orbit, and
especially low cost satellites.

[Narrator] The shuttle
should be assembled in 2016

with tests beginning the following year.

By that time, a new rover
will have reached the moon.

(upbeat music)

In 2007, Google launched
a 30 million dollar

public competition with
the goal of sending

a robot to the moon.

A rover capable of moving over an area

of 500 meters, taking high
definition photographs

and sending them back to Earth.

Six teams from 13 different
countries participated.

This represented an
initial challenge before

sending men to the moon once again.

I think one of the
reasons why big companies

are deciding to invest in
what we call new space,

new space technologies,
is one, because they like

to think big but they also
see a solid business plan

and they know that businesses
can be developed out of this.

[Narrator] In America,
captains of industry

are investing huge sums
since they know that outer

space is today's new Eldorado.

Throughout Europe, Asia,
and Africa, men want

to conquer space, walk in
the footsteps of Yuri Gagarin

and Neil Armstrong for the
beauty of the experience

of course, but mainly for
the dollars they can earn.

It's a sound investment.

One euro invested in space
will increase by five,

since on the moon, Mars,
or the stars, there's iron,

cobalt, nickel, silicate,
platinum, as well

as new sources of energy.

Experts estimate that
this business will entail

hundreds of billions of dollars.

Further motivation for man to look upwards

in a different manner.

[Translator] To save the
human race there is only

one solution, learning to
live on other heavenly bodies.

[Narrator] In just a few
years, the use of outer

space will become part of our
daily lives and the wealth

contained in the stars will
inexhorbitably compensate

for the depletion of our
natural resources on Earth.

People will live and work
on the moon, on Mars,

or on orbital space stations.

And this new conquest
of the infinite can only

succeed with the help
of even more effective

and autonomous super robots.

(slow piano music)