AI-powered ‘hands-on’ test project to ensure safety of astronaut gloves –News Center Japan

Tom Kean
Corporate Vice President of Mission Engineering

*This blog is based on an excerpt from “This AI-based testing project will help ensure the safety of astronaut gloves in space” published on April 4, US time.

Astronauts staying on the International Space Station (ISS) do not travel to space. They are workers, scientists and engineers. We carry out important scientific missions in a difficult operating environment where safety is paramount. Extravehicular activities include repairing equipment, installing new equipment and refurbishing the largest spacecraft in history. Like those working on Earth, astronauts’ gloves can age and tear or break, raising safety concerns.

Astronauts working at NASA take pictures of space gloves during and after extravehicular activities and send them to Earth for inspection to avoid problems. .. On Earth, NASA analysts look at photos of the gloves to check for dangerous damage and send the results back to astronauts on the ISS.

The ISS’ low Earth orbit distance of about 250 miles from Earth allows us to get the job done in this process, but NASA will send humanity back to the Moon or Mars, 140 million miles from Earth. Earth. , things are different.

From Mars, it can take up to 20 minutes to say hello to people on Earth, and another 20 minutes for people on Earth to say hello. That is, it takes at least 40 minutes to check the astronaut’s gloves, so the waiting time is too long.

To solve this problem, the Microsoft team worked with scientists from NASA and engineers from Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and HPE’s Spaceborne Computer-2 to image gloves on the ISS. We are developing a direct scanning and analysis system. This could increase the autonomy of astronauts with limited support from Earth.

Fault detection in safety-relevant components

The astronaut glove has a five-layer structure. The outer layer has a rubberized coating that improves grip strength and serves as a first protective layer. Next comes a layer of Vectran®, a cut-resistant material. The remaining three layers maintain spacesuit pressure and protect against extreme space temperatures that range from 180 degrees Fahrenheit to 235 degrees Fahrenheit (82 degrees Celsius to 113 degrees Celsius).

The outer layer is durable with considerable overuse, but problems can arise when wear reaches the Vectran® layer. If this happens, the pressure bladder on the spacesuit, which is essentially the safety layer for astronauts, will also be affected.

Since the thumb and forefinger are often used to grasp an object, the glove is the more breakable of the two. Additionally, some areas of the ISS have also been exposed to micrometeoroids and other hazards for over 20 years, and the impact of these micrometeorites has created many sharp angles in structural components such as handrails. .

The danger is even greater on the Moon and on Mars. Because there is no natural erosion by wind or water, rock particles look more like shards of glass than pebbles or grains of sand on Earth.

To create the ISS-mounted glove monitor, the NASA team began collecting new, undamaged gloves and gloves that were used for EVA and ground training. Then I took a photo of the damaged glove and examined it, marking some types of wear, like where the rubberized silicone outer layer was peeling off or where the heavy Vectran layer was. ® was wiped out of the paddy field. This used Azure Cognitive Services Custom Vision, where NASA engineers opened a photo of the glove in a web browser and clicked on an example of damage.

This data was used to train Microsoft Azure’s cloud-based AI system and compare the results with actual damage reports and NASA imagery. We then harnessed the computing power of the AI ​​cloud to assess the potential for damage to specific areas of the glove.

After extravehicular activity, astronauts take off their airlocked spacesuits and take pictures of their gloves. The photos are immediately sent to HPE’s Spaceborne Computer-2 on the ISS, where the glove-analysis model quickly scans for signs of damage in space. As soon as damage is found, a message will be sent to Earth highlighting areas that require further inspection by NASA engineers.

Ryan Campbell, senior software engineer at Microsoft Azure Space, saidIn this demonstration,ISS Above TO THE And edge processing was done, and it was found that the glove can be analyzed in real time.Talk to.“Because you’re literally next to the astronaut during the process, you can run the test faster than sending the image to the ground.”

HPE Provides space-ready computing hardware and software

NASA is now able to test this AI technology directly on the ISS thanks to a partnership between Microsoft and HPE. NASA operates the HPE Spaceborne Computer-2, which is currently performing a multi-year mission on the ISS, and tests AI technology.

HPE Spaceborne Computer-2 is an edge computing and artificial intelligence system designed with a rugged solution capable of withstanding the rigors of space, capable of performing more than 2 trillion calculations per second, or more than 2 teraflops. ..

Currently, damage assessment tools developed by NASA, Microsoft, and HPE are in the testing phase, analyzing gloves, but are not being used to make critical safety decisions. Still, the technology is seen as having considerable future potential, and the current focus is on continuing this testing and demonstrating its long-term reliability.

Globe program can be extended to other functions

Although this glove program is new to the ISS, NASA believes it could expand this technology to other areas and check for damage to other critical components such as docking hatches. Microsoft HoloLens 2 and its successors could also allow astronauts to quickly see and scan damage to their gloves, and ultimately simplify assistance in repairing complex machinery.

The universe is a powerful site for the experimentation of innovation. By pushing humans and equipment to their limits, the universe is pushing the boundaries of every engineer’s creativity and skill. For the Microsoft team, this opportunity to apply the power of AI to ensure the safety of the NASA astronaut’s gloves is the first step.

Jennifer Ott, data and AI specialist at Microsoft, said:Nasa One of our missions is to explore, discover and expand knowledge that contributes to the interests of humanity, and this project applies to everyone. And that’s only the beginning. “It is said.“By maximizing the power of cloud computing through such projects, we can think about and prepare for what we can safely do next. In the future, we expect longer human spaceflight. We are pushing all this limit even further.”

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Tags: Case Studies, Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, Artificial Intelligence (AI)

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