NASA and Microsoft to Work Together on Mars

Cassandra Vella/Correspondent

NASA and Microsoft have agreed to collaborate on the new software development, OnSight. OnSight will be a new technology with the ability to allow scientists to work on Mars with Microsoft’s new HoloLens technology.

Microsoft’s HoloLens will be a headset design that uses more than just local objects for sensory imagery to interact with. The OnSight system will use holographic computing to display visual information and rover reports into the user’s visual environment. This type of holographic computing combines images of a physical environment with computer-generated imaging to create the interactive hybrid that the user can experience.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California is in charge of the OnSight development project; these scientists will work with the technology to plan Mars operations. These missions will be at the hands of the scientists on Earth manipulating the Mars Curiosity Rover in its data collection and science operations. OnSight allows the rover scientist to walk around and explore Mars from the safe confines of their own offices. These scientists’ current work involves examining Mars imagery on a computer and they do not have the ability to interact with what they are seeing. With the holographic realm surrounding them, they will be able to walk around the rocky environment and even crouch down to examine areas from different angles and perspectives. They will be working in a more human and realistic way.

The technology will be used to better plan Mars rover operations as well. For instance, the rover scientists will be able to program the robotics for many different scientific instruments by seeing their targets and using different gestures to choose from many menu commands. The partnership working to investigate advances in human-robot interaction is what influenced the joint effort of OnSight and Microsoft. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory team with OnSight looks to work further with systems to control spacecrafts with robots. The tools may assist researchers in better understanding the foreign environment and workspaces of various robotic spacecraft. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is looking to test OnSight in Curiosity missions and operations during 2015. They also hope to use this technology in the Mars 2020 rover missions. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is the management headquarters for the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, and the home of where Curiosity had been assembled and tested.