Abstract

Telepresence systems have the potential to assume an important role in on-orbit servicing scenarios. Compared to manned missions, these systems offer a safer and less expensive way to operate in outer space. One of the main goals of telepresence research is to determine whether immersive telepresence systems are able to achieve a level of efficiency which is equal to that of astronauts in tasks that require fine motor movement and dexterity. In addressing this question, it is of relevance that astronauts' fine-motor skills are restricted by a range of factors including weightlessness and space suits. In order to compare in future studies the efficiency of a telepresence system and suited astronauts in performing fine-motor tasks, a testbed was developed with typical on-orbit servicing tasks which were designed to guarantee maximum external validity. An experimental study showed that the testbed is a valid measure of fine-motor skills. Two follow-up studies examined the potentially debilitating influence of a range of factors on fine-motor performance in extravehicular activities, such as a restricted field of view, a destabilized body posture, restricted mobility, and reduced haptic feedback. The results of these studies offer a basis for comparisons between the performance of common extravehicular activities and telepresence systems on fine-motor tasks.

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