Tim Peake To Control UK-Based Rover From Space

British astronaut Tim Peake will take control of a robot in England as he orbits the Earth from space on Friday afternoon.

Major Peake, 44, is on the International Space Station, where he is spending six months doing scientific experiments.

He will remotely navigate the European Space Agency rover, named Bridget, through a simulated Martian landscape at Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage, Hertfordshire.

The Mars Yard Pic: ESA

The Mars Yard is 30m by 13m and will be split in two with a partition acting as the entrance to a cave. The cave will have very low light.

One rover will navigate autonomously across the well-lit part of the yard before stopping at the cave. At this point, Major Peake will take control of Bridget.

His task is to get Bridget into the cave and find three targets marked with UV paint before exiting - all within 90 minutes.

Bridget must frame each target up for a picture, mark a map and notify ground control.

The goal is to develop the technology needed for astronauts to navigate rovers while orbiting Mars and to see how humans and robots can work together.

Bridget the rover

It may sound relatively simple but there will be a number of obstacles that Tim Peake and Bridget must overcome.

It takes some time for signals to be relayed from the ISS - 250 miles above Earth - so there will be delay in giving the instructions and the robot carrying them out.

While the ISS is orbiting, there will also be breaks in transmission.

Bridget will also be in the dark and cut off from her usual energy source, solar power. She and Major Peake will have to complete the task before she "dies".

But the biggest challenge for the robot will be telling the difference between a shadow and a rock, something rovers cannot do in dark conditions. This is where the human element becomes crucial.

The experiment can be followed live from 2.30pm.

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