hen astronauts need to perform repairs or maintenance on the International Space Station (ISS), it is overseen by staff on the ground, who have access to all the schematics and information about the components and instruct astronauts on what to do, one step at a time.
However, for future missions, especially those that are planning to eventually travel further out into the solar system such as Mars, the significant communication delay between the astronauts on the craft and earth is not practicable. Leaving astronauts to make repairs without support from the ground. To overcome this, astronauts on the ISS are trialing an augmented reality system which can help in the inspection and maintenance of station equipment.
The T2 Augmented Reality project utilises Microsoft HoloLens AR glasses alongside specially designed NASA software to assist astronauts and give guidance and instructions to perform maintenance tasks and repairs. The augmented reality software will be loaded up with instructions for various tasks which the astronauts can access when needed.
International Space Station associate scientist, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Bryan Dansberry stated:
“AR tools hold the promise of allowing us to pre-package guidance and expertise… The space station is the perfect platform to test out AR systems and refine these tools so they will be ready when future astronauts need them. Closer to home, these tests help to mature software and AR technology now so expertise and support are available in remote locations around the world.”
The system has been trialed by JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, who used it to maintain the space station’s treadmill, and by European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet and NASA astronaut Megan McArthur. The crew is planning another nine test sessions to try out the procedure and learn more about what does and doesn’t work. For now, the system will be used only for the treadmill, but in the future, this approach could be used to maintain other pieces of equipment and could even be used by astronauts traveling to the moon or Mars.