NASA to Send Microsoft’s Virtual Reality Headset to International Space Station


NASA is sending Microsoft’s virtual reality headset to the International Space Station (ISS) to beam back to Earth what astronauts see in space.

NASA and Microsoft are teaming up to develop Sidekick, a new project using commercial technology to empower astronauts aboard the ISS.

Sidekick uses Microsoft HoloLens to provide virtual aid to astronauts working off the Earth.

A pair of the devices is scheduled to launch on SpaceX’s seventh commercial resupply mission to the station on June 28.

“HoloLens and other virtual and mixed reality devices are cutting edge technologies that could help drive future exploration and provide new capabilities to the men and women conducting critical science on the International Space Station,” said Sam Scimemi, director of the ISS programme at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

“This new technology could also empower future explorers requiring greater autonomy on the journey to Mars,” said Mr Scimemi.

The goal of Sidekick is to enable station crews with assistance when and where they need it. This new capability could reduce crew training requirements and increase the efficiency at which astronauts can work in space.

“Sidekick is a prime example of an application for which we envisioned HoloLens being used – unlocking new potential for astronauts and giving us all a new perspective on what is possible with holographic computing,” said Alex Kipman, technical fellow, Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft.

NASA and Microsoft engineers tested Project Sidekick and the Microsoft HoloLens aboard NASA’s Weightless Wonder C9 jet to ensure they function as expected in free-fall in advance of their delivery to the microgravity environment of the space station.

Sidekick has two modes of operation. The first is “Remote Expert Mode,” which uses Skype to allow a ground operator to see what a crew member sees, provide real-time guidance, and draw annotations into the crew member’s environment to coach him or her through a task.

Until now, crew members have relied on written and voice instructions when performing complex repair tasks or experiments.

The second mode is “Procedure Mode,” which augments standalone procedures with animated holographic illustrations displayed on top of the objects with which the crew is interacting.

This capability could lessen the amount of training that future crews will require and could be an invaluable resource for missions deep into our solar system, where communication delays complicate difficult operations.

Source : NDTV

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Windows Holographic will let NASA explore what Curiosity sees on Mars


Mars Hololens

Microsoft announced the futuristic at-home augmented reality project Windows Holographic today, and one of the many different uses the company teased was a collaboration with NASA and the Curiosity rover team. Now, NASA has released more information on the software it built for Holographic, a program called OnSight.

By using Microsoft’s HoloLens visor, NASA scientists will be able virtually explore the areas of Mars that Curiosity is studying in a fully immersive way. It will also allow them to plan new routes for the rover, examine Curiosity’s worksite from a first-person view, and conduct science experiments using the rover’s data.

The science teams at NASA that have worked with Curiosity’s data before have had no problem learning plenty just by a computer screen, but Holographic and HoloLens will literally offer a new perspective on how to interpret the findings. Scientists will be able to virtually surround themselves with images from the rover and then explore the surface from different angles.

HERE is the video of Microsoft Hololens which makes Holographic Display near to reality :

That’s a big deal, according to OnSight’s project manager, who’s quoted in the release. “This tool gives them the ability to explore the rover’s surroundings much as an Earth geologist would do field work here on our planet,” he says.

We may still be decades away from landing humans on Mars, but it looks like Holographic and OnSight will help bridge the gap until then. The JPL team will start testing OnSight with Curiosity later this year. Deeper integration into future missions may have to wait until the next proposed Mars rover lands on the red planet in 2020.

Source : theverge

The Tech Executives Running the Commercial Space Race


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Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic company is reeling from the loss of SpaceShipTwo, which crashed in California’s Mojave desert on Friday, killing one of its pilots and seriously injuring the other. Branson, a billionaire business mogul whose Virgin group of companies have ranged from music to airlines to mobile phones, founded Virgin Galactic ten years ago with the aim of offering flights to the edge of space for anyone who could pay the $250,000 price tag. The future of Virgin’s commercial suborbital flight program is unclear in the wake of the tragic accident.

The 64-year-old Branson is not the only businessman in the space trade. Historically space and aviation have been a point of fascination for moguls who have made their fortune and want to accomplish something bigger. Eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes, who made his name in the film business in the 1920s and 1930s, fixated on aerospace and aviation and built innovative airplanes and set air-speed flying records. And James Lick, a real estate tycoon, spent a fortune building a state-of-the-art telescope and observatory in 1876 in San Jose, California.

Today, the concept of space travel has proved an irresistible allure for many entrepreneurs who’ve made it in the tech world, and they have been spurred on by NASA’s increasing reliance on private companies to conduct space missions. The industry has been rocked by SpaceShipTwo’s crash coming just days after the explosion of an Orbital Sciences Corp. commercial supply rocket bound for the International Space Station. But the race for commercial space travel continues. Here’s a look at the major tech titans leading the way:

Elon Musk

The 43-year-old co-founder of PayPal and head of Tesla Motors launched Space Exploration Technologies Corp. in 2002 with the ultimate goal of developing the technology to allow humans to live on other planets. SpaceX, as it is known, designs, makes and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft.

In 2012, Nasa hired SpaceX to deliver cargo and eventually astronauts to the International Space Station. The company’s spacecraft have since made five trips to the International Space Station and back, including four official resupply missions. The Hawthorne, California company has over 3,000 employees and operates three spacecraft: Dragon, Falcon Heavy and Falcon 8. Its Dragon spacecraft is expected to begin manned missions in the next two to three years.

Jeff Bezos

The 50-year-old co-founder of Amazon Inc. started Blue Origin in Kent, Washington state, in 2000 to develop technology to make human access to space easier. It is currently focused on developing rocket-powered vertical takeoff and landing vehicles for access to the edge of space and beyond. As of 2012 Blue Origin had received $22 million from Nasa.

Its crew and cargo vehicle, called New Shepard, is designed to eventually take tourists to suborbit. Last month, United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. that launches unmanned rockets, picked Blue Origin to develop a rocket engine that could eventually replace the Russian rocket engine used in many American unmanned launches.

Paul Allen

The Microsoft Corp. co-founder teamed with aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan in 2004 on the experimental SpaceShipOne, which was launched from a special aircraft. It became the first privately financed, manned spacecraft to dash into space and later won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for accomplishing the feat twice in two weeks.

More recently, the 61-year-old’s Stratolaunch Systems, based in Hunstville, Alabama, is developing the world’s biggest plane to help launch cargo and astronauts into space. Called Thunderbolt, it is tentatively scheduled to launch in 2018. Stratolaunch is working with Orbital Sciences and Rutan’s Scaled Composites. SpaceShipTwo was piloted by Scaled Composites, under contract with Virgin Galactic, during this week’s fatal crash.

Jeff Greason

The rocket scientist and former Intel Corp. employee founded XCOR Aerospace in 1989. XCOR also is pursuing space tourism and hopes to conduct flight tests for its Lynx spaceship beginning in 2015. In September, XCOR was partner to the Federal Aviation Administration approving a commercial space launch license for Midland International Airport in Texas, where XCOR operates a research and development center. The 50-employee company is based at Mojave Air and Spaceport in Southern California and has built 13 different rocket engines and built and flown two manned rocket-powered aircraft – the EZ-Rocket and the X-Racer. Greason has served on the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee.

Source : NDTV