Thursday 27 October 2022
Recreating scenarios with conditions similar to Mars so that astronauts can train can be very costly. So NASA is using a VR simulation to make these scenarios. During the months of May to July, NASA presented the MarsXR Challenge, a contest aimed at improving this Mars simulator using crowdsourcing, a working method where the public is used to provide ideas or solutions to certain tasks.
The contest aimed to create scenarios or tools that could be used for the training of astronauts in extra-vehicular activity scenarios (EVA). The various categories where solutions could be submitted were:
- Assembly of the camp: intended for all those tasks that had to do with the preparation of the house, such as mounting solar panels, assembling the wiring of the house or a greenhouse where to grow food.
- Scientific research: aimed at all tasks related to the collection of Martian information, such as the collection of soil samples, the collection of meteorological data or environmental radiation.
- Exploration: intended for tasks related to exploration of the terrain and the vicinity of places of interest.
- Maintenance: intended for tasks to maintain the proper functioning of the appliances used. Examples of possible solutions are to make a scenario to clean the solar panels of the pulse that they end up acquiring, to make a scenario with the analysis and maintenance of the exploration vehicles, or to make tools that help make the cleaning of the house.
- Other proposals: this category includes all the other scenarios or ideas that can be had, provided they meet the objective of the contest. Some examples of this category are the creation of a belt to store the tools, so as not to be loading them manually, or the creation of a lighting system attached to the suit (EVA suit).
The 2,200 contestants were able to access a part of this simulation, containing 400 km² of the Mars terrain, of the crater Jezero (obtained from satellite images), with realistic day and night cycles, weather conditions and gravity, and other tools to facilitate solution development. The simulation has been done using Epic Games software, Unreal Engine 5. (If anyone wants to take a look at the simulator, they can download it from Epic Games, looking for“NASA XOSS MarsXR Editor”).
In this competition, inLaber Pol Sturlese participated as part of the Overheat team, one of the winning teams that developed solutions for several categories. The team delivered slots for 5 different scenarios, and all of them were awarded. Among the most outstanding deliveries are the simulation of the assembly and connection of solar panels, and the mission and set of tools for the collection of soil samples for subsequent analysis. You can see some small videos of the 5 deliveries made by the team in the following links:
- Scanning equipment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jzrd3c7uns
- Installation of solar panels: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fexhcreyqbg
- Field research: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05dlqwnf-jm
- Soil samples: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3qyfex2diw
- Other proposals: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=me9jgjm7pju
For more information about the contest or future calls, you can go to the NASA website, or the contest.