October 10, 2000
John Ira Petty
Johnson Space Center
The sense of touch could help prevent disorientation in astronauts, pilots and telerobotics operators using a Tactile Situation Awareness System (TSAS) to be featured at Johnson Space Center’s Inspection2000. TSAS could find increasing applications outside the space program -- for pilots, those involved in underwater operations and others.
JSC’s I2000, Nov. 1 to 3, will offer industry, business, community and education professionals an opportunity to discover NASA technologies and processes that might be applied to their own activities. Guests can inspect technologies, tour the center’s facilities (many of them unique), and talk with scientists and engineers who work to meet technical challenges and expand human knowledge and capabilities. NASA officials will be there to talk about how those technologies can be licensed for private-sector use.
Researchers agree that the sense of touch is underused in dynamic orientation. TSAS uses tactile stimulators called tactors, essentially small vibrators linked to the craft’s guidance system, on the torso and limbs. The tactor arrays provide an intuitive sense of orientation, distance and speed to the operator relative to the Earth or another object in the environment. TSAS reduces the visual demands and can help the operator’s performance, especially when the workload is high. Exhibits and presentations at I2000 will offer information on how businesses can take advantage not only of the technology developed for the space program, but also the talents of space program scientists and engineers. The Technology Outreach Program (TOP) is designed to give small businesses access to the expertise of rocket scientists and others to help resolve their technical problems.
Charlene Gilbert, I2000 chair, said the free event is an opportunity to share space technology and knowledge with people who can bring the benefits to a wide range of people on Earth. “The event’s focus is on people and organizations who do not normally interact with the space program,” she said.
One of NASA’s goals is to make the benefits of space-based technology available to improve life on Earth, said George W.S. Abbey, JSC director. “At I2000 we will display a wide range of technologies. Our visitors will have the opportunity to examine those technologies in detail with an eye to possible commercial application.”
The mission of Johnson Space Center is the expansion of a human presence in space through exploration and utilization, for the benefit of all. Technology from space has found application throughout society – from energy, transportation and agriculture to medicine, communications and electronics. One medical application is a tiny new heart assist device -- based on the huge propellant pumps for the space shuttle’s main engines -- which recently began human trials in the United States after successful trials in Europe.
Inspection99 last November drew 2,500-plus guests from 44 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and 16 foreign countries. I2000 will be the fifth in a growing and increasingly successful series of the yearly meetings designed to bring the benefits of space technology down to Earth. Though there is no charge to attend I2000, registration is required.
To register and for more information visit http://inspection.jsc.nasa.gov, phone (281) 244-1316, fax (281) 483-9193 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The event is free, but registration is required.
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