Smart astronaut glove to explore the Moon, Mars and beyond

Thanks to a glove full of sensors, astronauts dressed in rigid space suits can control drones and robots by gesturing with their hands and fingers.

Astronaut Smart Glove
Astronaut Smart Glove

Imagine standing on a cliff on Mars and looking out over a rusty brown, boulder-covered plain. 

You bend your wrist and a drone in the distance makes a turn to the left. Or you make a few subtle movements with your fingers and a robot takes a soil sample. This should be possible with a smart glove that has recently been tested in a remote location.

New way to control.

The glove was developed by Ntention, a start-up founded by Norwegian students. It contains sensors that can pick up subtle movements of the hand and fingers. They then send this information wirelessly to a portable device that can control drones and robots.

Smart glove for Mars.

Initially, Ntention's smart glove was intended for use here on earth, as a new, more intuitive way of operating devices. Planet scientist Pascal Lee, however, who attended a demonstration of the glove, thought it might also be useful in space travel - for example during a mission to the moon or Mars.

A space suit under pressure is relatively stiff,' explains Lee in a press release from the SETI Institute. So hand and finger movements come up against a lot of resistance. With this smart glove for astronauts, however, you can set the sensitivity to such movements to 'high'. And then this technology could still be used in such a space suit.

Uninhabited island.

The smart glove was recently tested as part of NASA's Haughton-Mars project. People practice for a trip to Mars in and around the Haughton crater on Devon Island, the largest uninhabited island in the world. 

Video shows how a fake astronaut in a space suit makes a drone fly around with hand gestures: 

Ultimately, the intention is that astronauts can use the glove to perform all kinds of tasks performed by drones and robots. Exploring and mapping the surface, for example, or collecting samples from hard-to-reach places.

And when will this actually happen? According to current plans, NASA will be putting people on the moon again in 2024 as a stepping stone to a manned Martian mission - but there is still a lot to be done in the next five years.