Cailyn Smith and Terran Mott and Tom Williams


IEEE International Symposium on Robot-Human Interactive Communication

Publication Year

As robots become increasingly used in space exploration, it is important to ensure that space robots are developed with the appropriate level of autonomy. Semiautonomous robots operating in space contexts face unique challenges, as these robots often operate in situations that may be safety-critical, environments that are not fully known, and with communication delay to operators on Earth. Due to these challenges, there exist both advantages and risks to developing systems with high levels of autonomy to operate in space contexts. Therefore, we aim to investigate perspectives on the trade-offs of increased autonomy for space robotic systems and the human factors considerations that should be evaluated when designing these systems. We conducted qualitative interviews with five professionals in the space robotics industry to explore these perspectives. Our findings demonstrate that decisions regarding the level of autonomy of space robots is shaped not only by technical considerations, but also by operators' willingness to accept new technology, financial considerations, and even human operators' sense of control. Based on these results, we present design recommendations for roboticists and human factors engineers in the space robotics domain.