Destination Innovation – Episode 3 – HET Project



(Music) Brenden Sanborn: Robot designs are getting better and more capable all the time and this is essential for the future of space exploration. If you think about how much work goes on every day aboard the International Space Station, or ISS, it makes sense that NASA is developing specialized robots to help reduce the workload on the astronauts. Systems like Robonaut Two are already aboard the ISS and starting to demonstrate their potential and value. Join us as we discover how scientists at NASA Ames Research Center are working on the next generation of remotely controlled robot systems for future space missions. (Music) Brenden: To tell us more about their plans for robotics we're meeting with NASA Human Exploration Telerobotics Project Manager Terry Fong. So Terry, what exactly is the HET or Telerobotics Project? Terry Fong: The Telerobotics Project is all about looking at how remotely operated robots can improve future human deep space missions. It's a project we're doing here at NASA Ames with our partners at NASA Johnson in Houston and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. It's really important to develop these robots because we're trying to find ways of improving human productivity in space. We want robots that can really work before, in support of and after humans, and we're trying to find ways of doing this, that really allows humans and robots to be a productive team. Brenden: Could you tell us some examples of the types of jobs these robots do? Terry: We want to try to use robots to do those things which are very repetitive or very tedious for humans to do. So, you know, basic chores, for example, on board spacecraft, in terms of monitoring experiments in terms of just doing routine maintenance. These are the kinds of things that robots are really good at because it requires a lot of repetition or precision and things that fundamentally, for you and I as humans, are very unproductive. Brenden: What are some of the different types of robots you are developing? Terry: In the Telerobotics Project we're working with a wide variety of robots. At NASA Johnson for example we're working with Robonaut 2, which is a two-armed humanoid robot. It's able to reach out and pick up things just like you or I can use our hands and arms to move things around. Here at NASA Ames we're working with the SPHERES robot, which is a volleyball sized free-flyer that can fly around inside a spacecraft, carry cameras or other sensors and do mobile monitoring tasks. Brenden: So Terry, what's next for the project? Terry: We have been doing a lot of work with both Robonaut Two and SPHERES on space station, but these are still in the experiment stage. Where we'd really like to be and we hope to be within the next year or so, is at a point where these robots become not just experiments but really tools and maybe even beyond tools as actual partners. So they're working day in and day out to help humans to be more productive in space. And for me, that's really what the future of space exploration is: humans and robots working together. Brenden: To tell us more about that unusual volleyball-sized robot being tested on the Space Station is NASA Ames' SPHERES Engineering Manager Mark Micire. Mark Micire: This is the SPHERES, it was originally developed by MIT, and it flew up to station up in 2006. SPHERES stands for Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, and Reorient Experimental Satellites. It's used for testing navigation and other guidance algorithms on space station. Brenden: How does SPHERES work, what does it have inside of it? Mark: It's all fully self-contained. It has its own thruster system, computer system and an ability to figure out where it is on station. Inside it has a small digital signal processor, so it's like a small CPU that helps it do all of the calculations it needs to figure out which thrusters to fire and how to get from point A to point B. It also has an ultrasonic beacon system and the ultrasonics allow it to figure out very precisely where it is and what its orientation is. Brenden: That looks like a cell phone. What function does that serve? Mark: For this particular project we're using a smartphone to control the SPHERE. We were able to use the phone because it gives us good processing power, it has lots of sensors, it has a camera, and it's very easy for us to write software that will be able to run on the phone and then control the SPHERE. The hope is that ground would be able to create a plan of things that they want the SPHERE to do, that plan would be uploaded to the smartphone. The smartphone then would monitor the progress of the SPHERE as it moves through station and execute those tasks. The real benefit is it's able to do this without crew needing to attend it. Brenden: What's in store for the future? How do you see the goals for this project evolving? Mark: Well, I can definitely see a world in which human and robots are working together and working as a team. Where you have robots that are on the ground doing science and figuring out how to work in these harsh environments. I can also see crew working side by side with robots up in the space capsules with the robots doing a lot of the menial and kind of boring work to free up the crew for doing other more interesting things. This is definitely breaking new ground. Usually you think of it in terms of robots as a separate entity from humans, but I think it's really when you get the two working together that you have a really good combination for allowing us to go places we haven't been before. Brenden: Thanks for joining us! And meet us again on our next Destination Innovation. Brenden: For more information about NASA's Human Exploration Telerobotics Project, please visit NASA-dot-gov-slash-telerobotics. (Electronic Sounds of Data)
(Musical Tones)

7 Comments

  1. Rhonda Whitney said:

    Not I so good

    June 30, 2019
    Reply
  2. MOPC Linguística said:

    Too bad the Russians will read it "the NYET project"

    June 30, 2019
    Reply
  3. NASA's Ames Research Center said:

    Thanks for watching! We're trying to tell all our stories to you, our viewers, while juggling research and science and all the other work going on at the Center. Stick around, we'll have more stories soon!

    June 30, 2019
    Reply
  4. Dmitri Tchoulanov said:

    very interesting anyway, thanks for posting your videos 🙂

    June 30, 2019
    Reply
  5. Raj Batth said:

    I m crazy for science n technology …

    June 30, 2019
    Reply
  6. TheEcologically said:

    Great work. Can't wait to see the development in the future 😀

    June 30, 2019
    Reply
  7. backslash-f said:

    I love science.

    June 30, 2019
    Reply

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