One of the challenges in future fusion plants such as ITER is the remote maintenance of the plant. Foreseen human-in-the-loop tele-operation is characterized by limited visual and haptic feedback from the environment, which results in degraded task performance and increased operator workload. For improved tele-operated task performance it is required to get insight in the expected tasks and problems during maintenance at ITER. By means of an exploratory human factor experiment, this paper analyses problems and bottlenecks during the execution of foreseen tele-operated maintenance at ITER, identifying most promising areas of improvement. The focus of this paper is on free space (sub)tasks where contact with the environment needs to be avoided. A group of 5 subjects was asked to carry-out an ITER related free space task (visual inspection), using a six degree of freedom master device connected to a simulated hot cell environment. The results show large variation in time performance between subjects and an increasing number of collisions for more difficult tasks, indicating room for improvement for free space (sub)tasks. The results will be used in future research on the haptic guidance strategies in the ITER Remote Handling framework. (C) 2013 FOM institute DIFFER (Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research). Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.