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John Bluck
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Phone: (650) 604-5026 / 9000

April 24, 2006
NASA to Test Prototype Software for Future Space Trips
WHAT: Reporters are invited to observe tests of prototype software that astronauts could use in future spaceflight and in moon habitats. NASA will test this software in a Utah desert April 23 to May 7, 2006. During the field exercise, the researchers' objective is to evaluate software 'agents' that could help astronauts by monitoring an electrical power system and sounding alarms that indicate problems. The agents also will provide procedural advice when problems occur. The software could keep track of astronaut locations, timelines and important tasks. Researchers will trigger some simulated problems to learn how the computer systems help or hinder the crew's response.

WHEN: Reporters are invited from May 1 to May 4, 2006.

WHERE: Mars Desert Research Station (habitat) and environs, near Hanksville, Utah.

WHO: Nine scientists and engineers from NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., are taking part in the experiments with 'Brahms' software and hardware systems. Chief scientist for human-centered computing Bill Clancey of NASA Ames is the principal investigator for the project. This work is supported by the Exploration Technology Development Program's (ETDP) Spacecraft Autonomy Project.

WHY: Earth-based experiments can be used for learning how to improve planetary exploration software. Team members will use prototype tools, including a wireless computer network, and voice-commanded mission control communication services that partly automate the role of capsule communicator (CAPCOM) personnel, who monitor and advise astronauts like they did during the Apollo missions to the moon in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

HOW: A team of nine people will set up equipment in and around the Mars Desert Research Station, which will serve as a simulated habitat on the moon. Team members will conduct a series of simulated lunar surface exploration missions. At other times, the station will represent a spaceship in flight.

Scientists are making audio and video recordings of the activities using the Crew-Activity Analyzer system developed under a Small Business Innovation Research Program grant to Foster-Miller, Inc., Waltham, Mass. It will synchronize audio and video recordings with records of the crewmembers' locations in the habitat.

From analysis of the recordings and other data, investigators can evaluate the prototype power system monitoring software and develop requirements for computer systems to interact with people.

DRIVING DIRECTIONS: The field test area is about a 20-minute drive from Hanksville and about four hours from Salt Lake City at the Mars Society’s Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS). From Salt Lake City, take I-80 east for a short distance to I-15 south. Pass Provo, and then take Highway 6 east. Follow Highway 6 to Green River. Then take Highway 70 west a short distance to Highway 24 to Hanksville. To travel to MDRS from the junction of highways 24 and 95 in Hanksville, take 24 west for 3.8 miles, following the river. At the top of the wash there is a dirt road on the right. Look for a wooden post with a stop sign. If you are going downhill and have gone four miles, you’ve missed the dirt road. You will know you have the correct dirt road if it immediately turns toward the right, doubles back toward the way you have come, goes over a rise and cattle guard and heads steeply down into a plain. Follow the road about 2.5 miles. Slow down for all washes. After about 2.5 miles, a Mars ‘habitat’ is located over your left shoulder behind a low set of hills (not visible from the direction you are driving). You may see tracks going off the dirt road. If you miss the habitat, turn around after 3 miles, and it will be obvious (now on your right) as you approach it.


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