Art & Desgin

NASA Astronauts Are Repairing Wonky Space Equipment With Augmented Reality


Image via NASA

With space travel and exploration taking humans further away from Earth than ever before, there will come a time where astronauts need to carry out repairs on the spacecraft they’re in without any assistance—or pizza—from Earth.

This is what the International Space Station (ISS) has been exploring, as detailed in NASA’s recent news release.

As part of the T2 Augmented Reality (T2AR) program, the personnel aboard the ISS have been testing out new AR equipment that will allow them to fix equipment and instruments with minimal assistance required.

Since it’s a headset, this also frees their hands up to use tools and follow along in real-time without having to pause videos.


Image via NASA

Its concept provides the astronauts with 3D cues and instructional videos neatly packaged into a Microsoft HoloLens that they can take with them up to space. This will enable them to get things done without needing to send a message back down to Earth and wait around for a reply, which would be especially useful in urgent situations.


Image via NASA

To test this out, Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) tried his hand at maintenance for the crew’s T2 Treadmill on board the ISS.

Usually accessible as a PDF, the procedure was conveyed to Noguchi through the goggles equipped with propietary software developed by NASA.

In this scenario, the software utilized 3D directional cues to “tell” the astronaut where to look and what to do. Verbal cues from the astronaut allowed the device to navigate the procedure and display additional text cues for the steps when they were needed.

Supplemental information like instructional videos and system overlays were also included in the package. Everything is easily accessible, and the hands-free nature of it would allow simple tasks to be carried out by an individual astronaut.


Image via NASA

Apart from fixing the treadmill, this technology could be used to improve crew efficiency and the accuracy of their activities. When journeys take people to the Moon, Mars, and beyond, it’ll also be extremely helpful as the distance will entail communication delays.

“AR tools hold the promise of allowing us to pre-package guidance and expertise,” says ISS associate scientist Bryan Dansberry. Since the ISS is still relatively accessible from Earth, it’s the “perfect platform to test out AR systems and refine these tools so they will be ready when future astronauts need them.”

[via Futurism, image via NASA]




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