ESA astronaut makes landing on polar moon

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The side illuminated by the Sun, its volcanic surface covered in shadow, the southern pole of the moon made it very difficult to land on the moon. Italian pilot Roberto Vittori has taken on an advanced flight simulator to test polar touchdown as part of a project to design a ‘human-in-the-loop’ lunar system.

DLR Robotic Motion Simulator

The ESA-led ‘Human-In-the-Loop Flight Vehicle Engineering’ study explored the innovative benefit provided by human observation of the moon’s landing to improve resilience. and the reliability of the flight system.

As part of the project, Roberto Vittori – an engineer of six aircraft – installed an independent motion simulator at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Institute of System Dynamics and Control in Oberpfaffenhofen near Cologne, designed for high -speed cutting and operations.

Lunar south pole

“It’s a beautiful ride,” Roberto said, emphasizing the intuitive idea of ​​movement that the simulation system gave him.

“The simulator is an amazing machine, it’s probably one of the best I’ve ever seen. This experiment today for me shows that Europe can do a lot in the future of research.

Roberto Vittori is the ESA pilot

The DLR Robotic Motion Simulator is based on an advanced robot arm with a flying capsule deck attached to it, fitted with a flying glass window.

From the capsule, Roberto was able to see how an airplane flew during critical flight and then take action to control it. In a test drive, the driver was scheduled to land on an island full of rocks. Vittori was able to enter through the provided window and select another safe landing through the barricades.

In another example, the autopilot detected a technical error. Here, the Italian navigator was able to switch to full manual control and manually navigate the module as it descended to the surface of the moon.

“Our main goal is to evaluate human-machine relationships and support activities for aircraft,” said ESA project manager Luca Ferracina.

Lander report

“We are establishing a preliminary design and preliminary requirements for human landing, with astronauts in the loop to improve the stability and reliability of the flight system. Our experience here demonstrates it is clear that the DLR Robotic Motion Simulator is very suitable for performing this type of experiment.

Go forward to the Lunar Gate

ESA’s ‘Human-In-the-Loop Flight Vehicle Engineering for Exploration Missions’ project as part of its preparations for the global Lunar Gateway site. Among other things, the Gateway will serve as a central hub for missions flying to the Moon.


When the Gateway was established as a campsite for skin exploration, Moon’s South Pole was high on the list of places to visit, and later stay. Preventing the heat of the moon found in other parts of the moon, this area provides close proximity to the sun for solar power and access to the moon’s ice deposits in the pit that is always covered.

The project is funded by ESA and is a partnership between research and industry. Thales partner Alenia Space from Italy has provided users for maintenance, including firewall software. The simulated lunar navigation and flight module was developed by the Spanish company GMV and adapted for the DLR simulator.

Trying to land

The project ran through ESA’s Technology Development Element, supporting new commitment concepts for space.


Sean Blair
European Space Agency (ESA)
Discussions and Media Relations
Phone: +31715658625
Email: [email protected]

Dr. Luca Ferracina
European Union (ESA)
Aircraft and aerothermodynamics engineering
Email: [email protected]

Jamila Mansouri
European Space Agency (ESA)
Head of Propulsion, aerothermodynamics, and Flight Vehicle Engineering Division
Email: [email protected]

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