Bridging the Gap in Space Robotics

Organizers: Nisar Ahmed, Christoffer Heckman, Jay McMahon, Daniel Szafir


Space exploration represents a complex and multifaceted problem domain for autonomous systems. Harsh and distant environments, long time delays, high costs, and other challenges highlight the value of autonomy, but make it difficult to achieve in practice. The cost of failure is high, as robots will often be required to perform mission-/safety-critical operations, sometimes in novel environments for which little a priori knowledge or human oversight is available. At the same time, such autonomy must remain sufficiently trustworthy, accessible, and comprehensible to human stakeholders (mission scientists, engineers, astronauts, etc.) to add value in achieving mission objectives. On Earth, recent developments in perception, manipulation, and learning are rapidly improving the capabilities of terrestrial robotic systems for a wide range of applications. However, integration into the space domain is occurring at a more gradual pace, despite this context being the absolute test of autonomy. This workshop aims to help bridge the gap between advances in terrestrial systems and space applications, identifying a set of “grand challenges and opportunities” for space robotics. Top researchers, engineers, scientists, and practitioners from the space exploration, space robotics, and autonomous robotics communities will be brought together for the first time at RSS to explore: (1) how advancements in terrestrial robotics might be applied to space and (2) how the challenges of operating in space may inspire and drive further research and enhancement of these techniques.