Astronauts have a wealth of knowledge to absorb before they can fly to the International Space Station: from piloting spacecraft to conducting spacewalks and maintaining one of the most advanced structures ever built by humans.
Having intricate knowledge of every component is impossible, so astronauts do regular refresher trainings while in space and ground control helps during complex operations.
Detailed checklists with step-by-step instructions are sent to the Space Station’s computers for the astronauts to follow, but this has a large drawback: reading and clicking on to the next step in the instructions requires that the astronaut has to let go of any tools and divert attention to the detailed procedure list.
ESA is working on the MobiPV mobile procedure viewer, which allows ground control to see what the astronauts sees and the wearer to work hands-free. MobiPV has been tested underwater and in space using commercially available parts but, just like mobile phones, the engineers are constantly upgrading the system to do more.
Here ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli has set up the latest version of MobiPV to check the system is working as planned.
This model allows multiple ground control stations to watch the video streamed from a camera in the glasses – useful for tasks that involve researchers and engineers from different countries as the International Space Station is run by USA, Japan, Russia, Canada and ESA.
The download and upload speed has been improved, while the software was upgraded to allow for situations when there is no direct contact with ground control, preparing for missions further afield such as on the Moon or Mars.
Unlike with mobile phones, any updates to MobiPV cannot cause unintended effects – performing any task in space allows no room for error. A lost connection or problem with the system cannot be allowed to impair the astronaut in any way, so MobiPV is robust.
Paolo is set to use MobiPV to maintain a water pump in Europe’s Columbus space laboratory.