The popular success of the Mars Pathfinder mission, especially in terms of individual access to “live”pictures over the internet, demonstrates substantial mass appeal of space exploration on a personal level. Teleoperation provides an inexpensive approach to remote presence, but is distance-limited due to finite signal propagation times. The proximity of the Lunar surface permits near real-time teleoperation, and through a Virtual Reality approach, presents a sense of “being there” without the difficulty of getting there (and back).
While limited single user teleoperated Lunar Rovers concepts have been proposed (Luna Corp., Inc.), an on-going and economically self supporting venture would require simultaneous teleoperation of many vehicles on a large scale. In addition, each vehicle would carry several simultaneous stereoscopic remote viewing television camera heads, whose position is controlled by the head movements of Earth bound viewers. The overall concept is similar to a small fleet of touring busses, although some smaller scout vehicles may be included, as well as a tow truck. An access fee structure for Earth bound teleoperators provides for return on investment.
Technical issues for an on-going operation in the Lunar environment include temperature extremes, high vacuum, solar radiation, micrometeorites, abrasive nature of Lunar dust and its capacity to electrostatically attach to surfaces are discussed, as are their impact on vehicle design and operation. Optical data links are considered to handle bandwidth requirements of 500 simultaneous users. The economics of scale, on multiple levels, demonstrates the feasibility of large scale teleoperation. Various base-line studies are presented.