NASA is developing augmented reality (AR) applications for astronauts, enabling them to inspect and maintain equipment on the International Space Station (ISS) without the need for ground control assistance. The agency hopes that this will reduce the impact of communication delays between the crew of the International Space Station and the NASA Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas. Although communication delays are not noticeable in most cases, NASA said the project will increase the autonomy of astronauts in making quick and informed decisions. The project will mainly benefit the space agency’s exploration of the moon and eventually Mars.
Normally, astronauts will get instructions from the ground control for PDF files that can be viewed on a computer or tablet. However, holding these small tools while operating the machine in a small space can limit productivity. NASA stated in a blog post that the T2 Augmented Reality (T2AR) project helps display instructions in astronauts’ goggles and uses 3D clues to guide their sights and show them the actual working location. It can also navigate the program following verbal instructions. This simplifies the inspection and maintenance process.
AR technology uses Microsoft’s HoloLens and customized AR software. In April, astronaut Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) was ordered to maintain a piece of sports equipment with the help of new technology. It was later used by two astronauts on the International Space Station, and more tests are planned.
“AR tools are expected to allow us to pre-package guidance and expertise,” said Bryan Dansberry, associate scientist of the International Space Station at Johnson Space Center. He said that the space station is the “perfect platform” for testing AR systems and perfecting these tools.
People have renewed interest in exploring the moon as a stepping stone to reach space far away from the earth. Through the Artemis program, NASA intends to use new technologies to explore the moon and prepare for manned missions to Mars. In order to take full advantage of these missions, NASA has developed some new technologies, one of which is augmented reality, because communication delays outside the moon will definitely last longer. Artemis’ goal is to land on the South Pole of the Moon by 2024, where no humans have been before.