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Research and Technology Studies

Research and Technology studies team member inside MMSEV during mission simulation. A field test led by NASA to assess surface operation concepts, including rovers, spacewalk timelines, and ground support.

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RATS Fact Sheet

Research and Technology Studies (RATS) Fact Sheet

Get the facts on the elements, technologies and crew roles and responsibilities for the 2012 RATS analog mission.

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Analog Mission Vodcasts

NASA EDGE Live at Desert RATS 2010

Vodcasts shot on location during analog missions, by the NASA EDGE and NASA 360 teams.

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Past RATS Missions

The Space Exploration Vehicle is tested as part of Mission Day 2 operations during the 2010 Desert RATS field tests at Black Point Lava Flow, Arizona. Photo credit: NASA

Read about the previous Desert RATS analog field tests in the desert environments of Black Point Lava Flow and Cinder Lake, Arizona.

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2012 Research and Technology Studies (RATS)

    Photo of the prototype Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle in JSC's Building 9.

    The 2012 RATS team prepares for mission start in JSC's Building 9, with the prototype second-generation space exploration vehicle on the left and spectators in the overhead "catwalk." Photo credit: NASA

    This week, NASA’s Research And Technology Studies (RATS) team will convene at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) to begin their 15th mission. In the past, RATS missions have been conducted in remote desert locations and dubbed “Desert RATS,” but RATS 2012 will be conducted in JSC’s Building 9, the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility.

    Building 9 offers a medley of tools and simulators that would be difficult to transport to a field test location. For these tests, the combination of hardware and software systems available in Building 9 have been configured and optimized for simulated missions to a near-Earth asteroid.

    A crew member

    ARGOS can be used to make spacewalkers feel as though they weigh 1/6 of their weight, as they would on the moon, or 1/3, as on Mars. Photo credit: NASA

    The prototype space exploration vehicle will be powered by a self-generating 3 kilowatt fuel cell system, helping to build the case for fuel cells’ viability as a long-term power source in space.

    A virtual reality lab will provide an immersive environment for the extravehicular activity (EVA) crewmembers, integrating real-time graphics with crewmember motions and kinesthetic sensations of large objects – an asteroid in this case. The Active Response Gravity Offload System (ARGOS), a crane-based, reduced-gravity system, will allow crews to conduct EVAs in simulated microgravity.

    Throughout the mission, the four crew members will work to identify the most efficient crew distribution between the mock deep-space habitat workstation and the SEV. Throughout the 10-day mission, they will test several different configurations with simulated astronaut activities across the SEV, the deep-space habitat, and EVAs using the ARGOS or virtual reality lab.

    A RATS crew member uses a virtual reality laboratory interface.

    A RATS Crew Member uses a virtual reality lab interface. Photo credit: NASA.

    In addition to the mission operations team, which will provide logistics and task timeline planning support, a team of scientists from the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Directorate will be onsite to ensure proper scientific methods are applied to asteroid sample collection techniques. Low-gravity environments like asteroids present special obstacles for collecting and containing geologic materials because loose samples could drift away and an astronaut could be propelled away from the surface just by hitting a rock with a hammer.

    Meet the RATS 2012 crew and mission support team!
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About the RATS Team

    The Research and Technology Studies (RATS) team evaluates technology, human-robotic systems and extravehicular equipment for future human exploration missions in space. The team runs simulated missions, also known as analogs, at NASA's Johnson Space Center to provide a knowledge base that helps scientists and engineers design, build and operate better equipment, and establish requirements for operations and procedures.

    Check out the 2012 RATS Crew and Mission Support Team!

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