By more local intelligence, and more local visual and tactile perception by the Rover to enable it to independently, intelligently, and expeditiously carry out the high level commands sent, with a 30-minute transmission delay, by its human controller on Earth. For example: "Go over there, pick up that rock, take it to that analysis station, and then report back to me."
The italicized locations would be identified by the human controller on his/her video image of the Martian scene, and this annotated image, together with the associated action commands would be relayed to the Rover.
Exploration of Mars by enhanced telepresence is the human exploration and development of space that NASA has been aspiring to do all along. The exploration is not performed by the inanimate Rover on Mars, but by its human controller on Earth. In exactly the same way, talking by telephone is not done by the inanimate earpiece at the other end of the line, but by the human talking into the mouthpiece!
Multiple rovers could ultimately be deployed that would enable multiple humans on earth to simultaneously function in, and experience Mars. These rovers, under direction of their human controllers on Earth would be able to repair and maintain each other. A permanent human presence would thereby be established on Mars. Telepresence missions could also be undertaken to other planets, moons and asteroids for which manned missions might never be possible.
Development and deployment of a telepresence mission to Mars would be technically challenging, but much less so, and much less expensive than a manned mission. Restructuring our space program from manned missions to telepresence would develop a vibrant high-tech industry attractive to young engineers and scientists, that would serve not only telepresence for space but also many terrestrial applications of telepresence.
Exploration by telepresence is strange. Emotionally, we might prefer to explore much as we did in ages past by going down to ships at the harbor, casting off, and setting sail for unknown lands. But now that space has become potentially open to us, exploration has taken on an entirely new dimension. In life generally, we revere the past but must always move forward. Faced with the daunting challenge of space we should not abandon our dreams, but seize the great opportunity it presents. We should set a goal for humans to be there permanently and affordably on Mars, other planets, moons and asteroids by telepresence to derive wealth and knowledge as, over the ages, we have by exploration and development of our own planet.
John Merchant is an IEEE member and president of RPU Technology Inc., which he founded in 1996.