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Synergies in Exploration Studies and Technology Development

Bill Clancey (Chief Scientist, Human-Centered Computing, Intelligent Systems Division), made a one-hour presentation at NASA Headquarters on October 8, 2008 titled “Enabling Field Science: Synergies in Exploration Studies and Technology Development.” The presentation was hosted in the Science Mission Directorate (SMD) by Kelly Snook, discipline scientist, and attended by approximately 15 people, including Michael Meyer (Mars Program Lead Scientist).

Clancey provided an overview of some human-centered computing projects at NASA Ames that he leads, including studies of the Mars Exploration Rover and Phoenix missions, recent field science experiments with the Mobile Agents tool in Hawaii and New Mexico, and technology transfer of Mobile Agents to routine use for International Space Station (ISS) operations in Houston.

The presentation emphasized the relation among: 1) understanding field science as it naturally occurs, 2) understanding the scientific process as it is realized in today’s Mars mission operations, 3) prototyping field science tools in lunar analog environments, and 4) applying this understanding of the scientific process and tool prototypes to make today’s spaceflight and remote spacecraft operations more efficient.

The specific recommendations presented were:

  • Study current planetary missions to understand the nature of scientific exploration and identify technology gaps
  • Prototype tools in authentic work environments—topography, timing, and reporting matte
  • Use agent-based systems integration as backbone for extra-vehicular activity (EVA) architecture
  • Refine operations concepts with integrated human-systems computer simulations
  • Exploit advanced technology in ISS operations to lower costs and gain experience

BACKGROUND: The Mobile Agents Project (Intelligent Systems Division, NASA Ames) has developed a wide variety of applications for supporting field science and spaceflight operations during the past eight years. The project uses a development methodology of empirical requirements analysis through observation and participatory design. The applications use agent-based systems integration to provide interoperability among a diversity of hardware and software.

Recent applications include:

  • EVA tool experiments at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS, 2003–2005) under the rubric of “Automating Capcom”
  • Automated operations of the Scout Rover at Meteor Crater, remotely commanded from ExPOC at Johnson Space Center (JSC) and voice-commanded by astronaut-subjects in pressurized suits during DesertRATS 2006
  • The “Power Agents” system for interrogating current and historical telemetry from the electrical power system of a simulated planetary habitat (MDRS 2006)
  • A voice-commanded metabolic advisory system in POGO tests at JSC (2007)
  • The individual Mobile Agents (iMAS) system used for routine field science (MMAMA 2008)
  • The Orbital Communications Adapter Mirroring System for automating aspects of file management between the ISS and ground support, deployed in Mission Control (OCAMS, 2008)

COLLABORATORS: Maarten Sierhuis (ARC/TI, RIACS), Brent Garry (Smithsonian Institution), John Dowding (ARC/TI; UC Santa Cruz), and Ron van Hoof (ARC/TI, Perot Systems)

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: This project was funded in part by NASA’s Moon and Mars Analogue Mission Activities (MMAMA) Program, a History of the Scientific Exploration of Earth and Space (HSEES) grant from NASA’s History Division, and Intercenter Task Agreements between NASA ARC and JSC.

Contact: Bill Clancey


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