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Tuesday, June 25, 09:00 - 10:00, Room 1
Dr. Vandi Verma


Vandi Verma is a JPL Principal Engineer and the Deputy Section Manager for the Mobility & Robotics section at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology. She also serves as Chief Engineer of Robotic Operations for Mars 2020. She was the Assistant Section Manager of the Mobility & Robotics section, the Supervisor of the Section Staff Group, and the Supervisor of the Operable Robotics Group. Her areas of expertise include space robotics, autonomous robots, and robotic operations. She has worked on Robotics and AI research and technology development tasks and has deployed robots in the Arctic, Antarctica, and the Atacama Desert. Capabilities she has worked on are in regular use on Perseverance and Curiosity. Vandi received her Ph.D. in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University in 2005.

Mobility & Robotics Section, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Insights from Decades of Mars Rover Operations and Innovations for Future Missions

NASA Mars robots are renowned for the long duration they have lasted and conduced planetary science that has transformed our knowledge of the Red Planet. This talk will discuss technological advancements and operations strategies in robot navigation, manipulation, sampling and autonomy that have made this possible. It will provide insights into the operational challenges of planetary robotic missions via the journey of the Perseverance rover and Ingenuity helicopter on Mars. In addition, it will introduce future mission concepts and discuss the innovations that will be necessary to realize them.

Tuesday, June 25, 14:00 - 15:00, Room 1
Prof. Kazuya Yoshida

Space Robotics Lab, Tohoku University


Professor Kazuya Yoshida received B. Eng., M. Eng. and Dr. Eng, degrees in Mechanical Engineering Science from Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan, in 1984, 1986, and 1990, respectively. He served as Research Associate of Tokyo Institute of Technology from 1986 to 1994, and Visiting Scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, U.S.A. in 1994. From 1995 to 2003 he was appointed as Associate Professor, and since 2003, he is Full Professor in Department of Aerospace Engineering, Tohoku University, Japan. He also serves as Technology Advisor of ispace inc., a start-up company for lunar transportation and surface exploration business, as well as Chief Technology Officer of CislunarTechnologies inc., another start-up for developing microsatellites for Earth and Lunar missions.


In addition, he has been contributing to space robotics education for international students at International Space University in Strasbourg, France (for Master of Space Studies) and various locations around the world (for Summer Study Programs) as well as in the Interdisciplinary Space Master program at University of Luxembourg.

Space Robotics: Challenge to Modular and Heterogeneous AI Robots for Lunar Exploration and Outpost Construction

Professor Kazuya Yoshida, in Dept. of Aerospace Engineering at Tohoku University, has a long-term challenge in Space Robotics regarding core technology R&D, space flight missions working with the space agency, JAXA, and commercial missions by spaceborne start-ups as a driver of the growing economy. After introducing his background research on Space Robotics for about 40 years, the talk will focus on an up-to-date research project under the Japanese “Moonshot R&D Program” framework for a collaborative heterogeneous multi-robot system for resource exploration and human outpost construction. The project involves the development of a group of diverse robots with modular designs. The idea is particularly useful for space missions where the transportation of hardware components is always constrained. With modular designs, the mechanical configuration of the robots can be easily changed by reassembling the components. This allows for on-site self-update of the functionality of the existing robots. This challenge will bring robust and sustainable robotics-based solutions to exploring the Moon and beyond.

Wednesday, June 26, 09:00 - 10:00, Room 1
Dr. Martin Azakarate


Martin Azkarate is Robot Navigation System Engineer for the European Space Agency, with more than 10 years of experience in the field. Martin led the Planetary Robotics Lab of ESA from 2014 until 2021, when he took on his role of GNC System Engineer of the Sample Fetch Rover (SFR) mission, and he is currently giving GNC expert support to the Mars exploration missions of RFM and STA. In addition, he has participated as Technical Officer in several ESA and EU projects. In parallel to his work at ESA, Martin graduated with a PhD in Mechatronics at the University of Malaga (UMA) in 2021, with the thesis entitled "Autonomous Navigation of Planetary Rovers." With respect to his academic background, Martin received in 2009 his double MSc degree in Electrical and Aerospace Engineering from Telecom BCN (UPC) and ISAE-Supaero respectively, after completing a research internship to conduct his Master Thesis at MIT's Space Systems Lab.

Automation and Robotics Section, European Space Agency

Dr. Gunter Just


Gunter Just obtained both Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Aerospace Engineering from The University of Stuttgart, specialising in Space Flight Technology & Space Utilisation and the Design & Construction of Aerospace Vehicles, during which he spent some time in the United States as well. He prepared his master thesis at ESA's European Astronaut Center in Cologne and obtained an ESA co-sponsored PhD from The University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, investigating robotic regolith excavation and sample handling mechanisms for lunar exploration. Since 2021 he is a member of ESA's Automation and Robotic section, where he is working on several ESA missions and projects in both orbital (ClearSpace-1 mission, RISE mission) as well as planetary robotics. He is currently also co-running the Orbital Robotics Lab (ORL).

Automation and Robotics Section, European Space Agency


Automation and Robotics at ESA - Orbit High and Rove On

The European Space Agency (ESA) is heavily involved in both orbital as well as planetary robotics, running a multitude of activities spanning the complete spectrum of space robotics. In addition, the section runs three cutting-edge laboratories at ESTEC in the Netherlands, dedicated to Orbital Robotics (ORL), Planetary Robotics (PRL), and Human Robotic Interaction (HRI). This keynote will cover ESA’s roadmap in the field, highlight some current developments, and give an introduction to the ESA laboratories and their use cases.

Wednesday, June 26, 14:00 - 15:00, Room 1
Prof. Yang Gao
Yang Gao 2023.jpg

Yang's work has been applied to several non-space sectors including nuclear, utility and agriculture through technology transfer and spin offs. Besides her own research activities, Yang serves various leadership roles for the wider space and robotics community, such as being the Editor-in-Chief of Wiley’s Journal of Field Robotics and the Mentor of United Nations Space4Women program, and co-chairing the IEEE-RAS Technical Committee on Space Robotics. See her full profile at

Centre for Robotics Research, King's College London


Professor Yang Gao FIET FRAeS, is a Professor of Robotics and heads the Centre for Robotics Research within the Department of Engineering at King's College London. She brings over 20 years of research experience in developing space robotics and autonomous systems, in which she has been the Principal Investigator of nationally and internationally teamed projects funded by European Space Agency (ESA), UK Space Agency, UK Research Innovation, Royal Academy of Engineering, European Commission, as well as industries. Yang is also actively involved in design and development of real-world space missions such as ESA ExoMars, Proba3 and VMMO (lunar ice mapper), UK's CLEAR, MoonLITE and Moonraker, and CNSA Chang'E3.

AI robotics for sustainable space exploration

The global space sector moves toward the New Space era driven by commercialization and resource exploitation, where AI robotics will play central roles and be directly responsible for meeting stringent requirements in cost, operability, reusability, and sustainability of long-lived assets in the harsh space environments. This talk will present some latest research work and technology development involving robotic vision, machine learning and biomimetic mechanisms, appliable to mission scenarios such as formation flying, on-obit assembly, active debris removal, planetary sample return and ISRU, etc.

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