Partners; astronaut and roverbot exploration.

Using human spaceflight to travel to a Near Earth Object (asteroid) and dock with it would seem both extravagant and perhaps highly perilous. This could be especially true if the project is exclusively a human spaceflight mission. I (and my research sources) have decided that a joint astronaut/roverbot mission would safely carry out the mission objectives and further enhance the new concept of joint astronaut and robot explorations of our solar system.

Part III of this blog series described the “astrobot” that will actually be placed on the asteroid and perform a full assessment; while under the command and control of its partner astronaut.  In this Part IV we describe the spacecraft that will deliver astronauts and the astrobot to the target asteroid. We will also introduce the astronaut crew for this mission and their respective duties.

The Spacecraft

The new spacecraft developed for this mission, and for the majority of future exploration missions to our solar system, is a Super Shuttle. This is a vehicle that is, in essence, a highly versatile and functional space truck, space taxi, and mission command and control center.  Its parts are manufactured on planet Earth by a consortium of international companies, but it is only assembled and tested while in Low Earth Orbit; specifically at an expanded International Space Station. For a fuller description of this craft please visit this link.

Within the concept of astronaut/robot partnerships and teams, the Super Shuttle most importantly serves as the specific mission command and control center. This approach provides critical autonomy to the exploration team that insures vital on-site mission control.  This does not cancel the equally important mission operations control on Earth. That link is still maintained, but this new approach improves the overall safety and success of deep space missions.

This spacecraft never departs or enters the environment of any solar system planetary body; including Near Earth Objects.  It either docks with the object or provides a recoverable lander module that carries the astronaut(s) and or astronaut/robot team to the planetary body.

On missions where there is still concern about the environment of the target planetary body, the first explorer to land on that target will be either an astrobot or a roverbot that is under the command and control of an astronaut on the Super Shuttle. This partnership between astronaut and astrobot is discussed in detail in the preceding Part III of this blog series.

The Super Shuttle spacecraft is truly a permanent resident of the space environment and as such enriches the entire deep space exploration scenario. It provides greater assurance that the missions it supports come away with many new discoveries and therefore broadens our understanding of our solar system the life that may exist in even its furthest reaches.

The Astronaut Team

The Super Shuttle is designed to transport up to 10 astronauts plus any robotic system partners.  For the mission to an asteroid the proposed astronaut team includes 4 astronauts.  Since this mission, in fact all future missions are international projects, the astronaut team have varying nationalities, but all share the common challenge and excitement of their mission. Their duty assignments are as follows:

  1. Super Shuttle Commander: This is the senior astronaut and has command of all shuttle operations including serving as its pilot.
  2. Mission Commander: This is the astronaut partner of the astronaut/roverbot team for the asteroid mission (see below for further discussion).
  3. Mission Specialist 1: This is the mission specialist responsible for assisting the shuttle commander in the docking operations and in assisting the Mission Specialist 2 in the transfer and retrieval of the roverbot to and from the asteroid.  The MS1 also serves as the shuttle’s Flight Engineer.
  4. Mission Specialist 2:  This astronaut’s principal function is to work the robotic arm(s) that facilitate the transfer of the roverbot. Where both robotic arms are required the MS1 works with this astronaut to manage the transfer.
  5. Both Mission Specialists are trained for and will do any necessary EVAs during the mission. In many instances, possibly including this mission, one or more astrobots will be on hand to help both Mission Specialists in their duties.

Mission Commander (MC): This astronaut is a scientist whose geophysics research equips him or her to serve as the partner and director of the asteroid mission. He or she has trained extensively with the roverbot as well as other astrobots and may have been on earlier space missions utilizing astronaut/astrobot partnerships.

MCs sit at a command and control center on the Super Shuttle that links them to both the roverbot and to the Earth-based mission operations center.  The MC follows a precise exploration plan and is in direct digital, visual and verbal communications with the roverbot.  The information and data being sent back by the roverbot is immediately assessed for safety issues as well as terrain data that allows the MC to direct the actual travels of the roverbot.

The MC has the option to alter or abort the mission plan if circumstances dictate.  This is the incredible advantage of the partnership between the MC and the roverbot.  It is continuous and with rapid responses by both partners. This unique relationship is expected to expand and enhance the data that is retrieved from these explorations.

Mission Completion

At the completion of the exploration of the asteroid, the roverbot is retrieved and placed in the Super Shuttle’s cargo bay.  All of the samples and data are carefully stored and backed-up.  Additionally, the digital and visual data are transmitted back to the mission operations center on Earth.  The crew, astrobots, and rover return to the expanded International Space Station where the crew await transfer back to Earth by commercial transport services. The astrobots and rover stay at the ISS where they are evaluated and then eventually prepped for a new mission.

Summary and Conclusion

Part V of this blog series will offer a summary and conclusion of this presentation.  We hope you will follow along.


The image of a roverbot and astronaut is courtesy of NASA.

Explore posts in the same categories: Humankind and Exploration


  1. […]   那个链接依然保持,但这种新方法提高了整体安全、成功的太空任务。该航天器从不背离或进入环境的太阳系的行星身体,包括接近地球的……         其余的都是在这里。   小行星和ASTROBOTS的第四部分«EXPLOROLOGY——View original post here:OF ASTEROIDS AND ASTROBOTS – Part IV « EXPLOROLOGY […]

  2. For those interested here is more information on plasma propulsion systems from the developer of the VASIMR system. http://bit.ly/aV9Fin

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