Particle physics experiments

NASA Experiments Cold Atom Lab Hardware On Board ISS With Mixed Reality Technology


Taking another photo from virtual reality, NASA is experimenting with whether the technology can be helpful in repairing equipment aboard the International Space Station (ISS). In a recent paper, the agency revealed that it is testing the limits of helmet-equipped mixed reality technology for Cold Atom Lab repairs and upgrades. If successful, astronauts staying in the ISS can perform the required work in the lab on their own very efficiently instead of relying on engineers on Earth.

The Cold Atom Lab is an important asset because it is the first physics laboratory of its kind to operate in Earth orbit. No bigger than a mini-fridge, the lab can house several experiments that explore the fundamental nature of atoms by cooling them almost to absolute zero – the coldest an object can be. NASA explains that the ultra-cold atoms produced by the lab underpin many modern technologies because they open a window into the quantum realm, where matter exhibits strange behaviors. Kamal Oudrhiri, Cold Atom Lab Project Manager at JPL said:

“Cold Atom Lab is investing in the use of this technology on the space station not only because it is intriguing, but because it could provide additional capabilities for these complex tasks that we rely on astronauts to perform.”

How Useful Is Mixed Reality During Complex Engineering Jobs

The concept of mixed reality is preferred by NASA because astronauts will be able to perform complex engineering work on the Cold Atom lab on their own. This idea arose after NASA astronaut Christina Koch, while working with Earth-based engineers to install equipment in the Cold Atom Lab, realized that the job can be done more efficiently and with better assistance.

Describing the headset used for the technology, NASA said that mixed reality headsets such as the HoloLens look like wrap-around sunglasses, and unlike virtual reality headsets, the HoloLens has transparent lenses that blend virtual and worlds together. real. The agency also explained the importance of technology, citing an experiment carried out in July this year. Astronaut Megan McArthur was replacing equipment in Cold Atom country, and the helmet she put on while working allowed the Earth-based team to see everything they saw. Interestingly, the team was even able to communicate with her by shooting arrows in her sight for direction during the task. Previously, scientists could only keep an update using a fixed camera that blocked most of the view. According to the agency, a number of additional upgrades are underway for Cold Atom Lab in the coming years.

This is the second case that NASA has turned to virtual reality, as the technology has already crossed the minds of scientists to facilitate the hectic repair and upgrade process.

Image: NASA



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