NASA Dives Underwater to Test Microsoft HoloLens

NASA is busy testing Microsoft HoloLens so that the device can be used in space without any hitch. This month, the space organization will have the underwater labs for 14 days with 4 “aquanauts” in it. The augmented reality headset which displays virtual images on the real world will be taken to space to help astronauts. The underwater operation of NASA has been named NEEMO 20 and it started from 20th July. On 28th June, a HoloLens was destroyed when the Dragon spacecraft in which it was placed, exploded during launch.

NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations
NEEMO stands for NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations which is currently working underwater off the coast of Key Largo in Florida. The mission takes place in a habitat that is similar to a trailer and is 45 feet long. The focus of the mission is on techniques that could be used to explore space in a detailed way like exploring Mars or an asteroid.

Luca Parmitano, a European Space Agency astronaut and commander of NEEMO 20, said that this underwater prototype will be used when it is finally taken into orbit. With HoloLens, people in the control center will be able to look over the astronauts’ shoulders while they work. This could prove to be helpful in many ways like real-time medical interventions.

Parmitano said about the mission “We can learn about interaction between crew members and the ground control. We can learn about procedures and ways to make our work effective.”

When astronauts go farther out in the solar system, crews have to work with a time delay. This is due to the fact that it takes a huge time for communications radio waves to reach there and come back to Earth. The one-way delay on Mars could be as long as 24 minutes. So, NEEMO is first testing the time delays on Earth.

In this mission, astronauts will replicate the various gravities found on asteroids and Mars. For this, scuba-diving astronauts will modify attached weights to make them almost neutrally buoyant.

The entire crew of NEEMO consists of Parmitano, Serena Auñón, Norishige Kanai and David Coan. Parmitano is a veteran of Expeditions 36-37 in 2013. Norishige Kanai is from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Serena Auñón is from NASA. Both of the astronauts haven’t gone for any space mission yet. David Coan is the manager of NASA EVA management office. Apart from these four, two technicians who are also professional divers are in the underwater facility.

Another set of holographic lenses from a different manufacturer and other tools that could find use in future asteroid missions, are also being tested in the ocean floor.

Other Non-Space Work

NEEMO 20 will also do some non-space work like examining coral. Scientists have noted that though Florida Keys have high coral content, they appear to be moving deeper into the water. According to researchers, the climatic changes along with the related rise in ocean temperature are making corals move into cooler areas.

The crew members will collect the coral samples during their “spacewalks” and bring them to the surface. They will also set up transmitters to take a note of environmental data like current, depth and temperature. All these data will help in monitoring the environment in a better way.

Parmitano said “Corals are an excellent marker of how the environment is doing.”

With this underwater testing by NASA, it can be hoped that soon Microsoft HoloLens can be sent to space successfully and provide assistance to astronauts on board the spaceship.

First published on augmentedrealitytrends.com.



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