NO MORE BORING CHORES FOR ASTRONAUTS WEARING ?SMART? SPACE SUITS
NASA?s Ames research center has conducted tests of the new space suits for missions to the Moon and Mars. The tests were held in a Utah desert. Actually, researchers tested the electronic equipment contained in the space wear.
The equipment is called ?mobile agents? and comprises a powerful computer with a full set of programs. It has all the necessary means of communications. And it sits inside the space suit. ?You?re looking at a new approach toward the science of data collection,? says Richard Alena, a NASA engineer.
The research project aims at ?coupling? the computer?s capacity in data management with human abilities to perform a ?creative search? on location. Unlike their predecessors who were tipped by ground control specialists while exploring the Moon in the 1970s, astronauts on a future space mission to Mars will be devoid of the luxury of a guiding voice.
The ?mobile agents? will be giving guidance, advice and warning to the explorers of Mars. They will be keep track of a work plan and movements, they will independently relay non-priority reports to the ground control e.g. space suit status and an astronaut?s condition in it. They will also carry out a great deal of other routine secretarial duties so as to save up crewmembers? precious time set aside for science and research. The same computer is also capable of handling a small-scale robotic assistant by remote control. The little robot was following people during the test like a dog on a leash.
Testing of another space suit for future astronauts bound for Mars, made by Australian scientists, is slated for August this year. The tests will be conducted in the Arkaroola desert located 600 km north of Adelaide
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