XR is all about a feeling of realness. It blends physical and digital worlds, mixing natural and intuitive 3D human, computer and environmental interactions. Anybody who’s used an Instagram or Snapchat filter, or a virtual eyeglass fitting application, has used mixed reality. It basically puts you into the computer world.
“Any environment can be recreated in virtual reality. I’ve seen earth from space. That was quite a feeling actually because the realism of the simulation is quite overwhelming. It felt great and it felt real,” said Mangili.
In the Bannova lab, XR is used to integrate mixed reality into the design of space structures, making space design more interactive and relatable for designers.
“Optimization of human-system integration is a fundamental task of the hardware design process for crewed space missions,” reports Bannova, in American Society of Civil Engineers library, an article that resulted from studies sponsored by the Boeing company conducted in 2020-2021 and continued through 2023. “Innovation has stalled for a few decades on design methods currently in use. The standard method uses computer simulation or high-fidelity mockups. Such an approach involves high costs and a long implementation time.”
Bannova knows her stuff. She is director of the Sasakawa International Center of Space Architecture (SICSA) and its MS-Space Architecture program (the only one in the world) at the University of Houston. And while most everyone dreams of flying to outer space or going to the moon, Bannova dreams of where you’ll sleep once you get there, or what car you’ll drive to take you around. Her students work on all of that virtually.
“These technologies should be harnessed to mitigate the dependency on physical prototyping of assets and help optimize the design process, drastically reducing research-and-development time and providing a higher level of immersion,” said Bannova. “However, there is a gap in the general understanding of how to utilize these emerging technologies effectively and apply them for space hardware development.”
It doesn’t look like a gap in the Bannova lab.
The proposed methodology was developed during a six-month research and design study of lunar surface architecture sponsored by Boeing. Netti, head of the XR lab, led the work which was conducted by faculty and students at SICSA. The study sought to define a design process that includes possible surface operations scenarios, development of an evaluation methodology and surface analysis for the conceptual design of a lunar terrain vehicle and a small lunar habitat.
Coincidentally, in the last few years while the space industry struggled to implement new evaluation techniques that place humans in-the-loop, development of commercial immersive technologies spiked and even became affordable.
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Two weeks in the Utah desert testing solutions for the first astronauts to reach Mars. Simulating in everything from isolation to communication with Earth, life on the red planet. At the helm of the Smops mission organized by Mars Planet, the Italian section of Mars Society, under the sponsorship of the Italian Space Agency, was 33-year-old Vittorio Netti from Bari, a space architect who trained and still works at Sicsa at the University of Houston. With five other “similar astronauts,” he also used the special Bg Suit space suit from Italy’s Radici in addition to 3D printers just from Roboze of Bari. But most of all, he was able to lead a mission toward that future that those like him who design and draw spaceships and high technology as in the books he read as a child have always dreamed of and are now seeing come true.
Mars Planet Technologies announces the mars simulation mission SMOPS, which will take place in April 2022 at MDRS (Mars Desert Research Station).
Mars is an incredibly harsh environment: global-covering dust storms, toxic terrain, thin atmosphere, extremely low temperatures. To push the concept of human exploration of the Red Planet, much more research needs to be done on the adaptation of human physiology to such hard conditions. After 6 months of travel in microgravity conditions, having dealt with the shock of a planetary reentry and landing, the first crew on Mars will face the challenge of recovery and rehabilitation, but also the need to assess and mitigate independently any possible health emergency throughout the mission.
To enable these opportunities, we are organizing SMOPS (Space Medicine OPerationS), an analogue mission that will take place at the MDRS (Mars Desert Research Station), a research facility owned and managed by The Mars Society in Utah, USA. For two weeks in isolation, our analogue astronauts will test different technologies and operational scenarios in the field of space medicine, in preparation for future human missions to Mars.
The conditions offered by the MDRS are in many ways similar to the ones that can be found in a possible Mars habitat: desertic environment, crew isolation, spacesuit simulators for external activities, limited living spaces and resources (water and food), local energy (solar panels), and food production (greenhouse). This will allow analogue astronauts on Earth to simulate, as best as possible, the difficulties that human crews will face on the martian surface.
The mission will be lead by Commander Vittorio Netti and Executive Officer Paolo Guardabasso.
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