NASA is studying the use of hybrid reality technology to upgrade the Cold Atomic Physics Laboratory of the international space station

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be2a9e83258c048 - NASA is studying the use of hybrid reality technology to upgrade the Cold Atomic Physics Laboratory of the international space station

the cold atomic physics laboratory is about the size of a mini refrigerator, which carries multiple experiments, Explore the basic properties of atoms by cooling them to near absolute zero, the coldest temperature that a substance can reach. Ultralow temperature atoms provide a window into the quantum field, where matter shows strange behavior, which is the basis of many modern technologies

in 2020, NASA astronaut Christina Koch worked with mission team members on earth to install upgraded hardware in the cold atom laboratory during her extended stay on the international space station. In addition to adding new functions to this novel facility, this work also proves another thing: This maintenance can be carried out without dragging the laboratory back to earth

NASA plans to carry out a series of additional upgrades to the cold atom laboratory in the next few years, so the task force is investigating how to make these activities more effective. Earlier this summer, they successfully tested a new tool that can help achieve this goal: Microsoft hololens, a hybrid reality head display. On July 15, astronaut Megan McArthur used this head display when replacing a hardware in the cold atom laboratory, so that the facility can produce ultra cold potassium atoms in addition to rubidium atoms that have been used since it began operation in 2018

hybrid reality head displays like hololens look like wrapped sunglasses. Unlike virtual reality head displays (which produce a complete virtual environment), hololens has transparent lenses to integrate the virtual and real world. This allows McArthur to see the area around her, and a small forward facing camera on the device enables members of the cold atom laboratory team watching on the large screen of the earth orbit mission operation center of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California to see what she sees. In contrast, during Christina Koch’s activities in 2020, the team can only see real-time video from the fixed camera behind or above the astronauts, so that most of their views on hardware are blocked

McArthur can also see the virtual graphic annotations, such as text and arrows, placed by the cold atom laboratory operation team in her field of vision. For example, when she looks at a series of cables, the task force can place an arrow in her field of vision to point to the specific cable she needs to unplug. Even if she moves her head away and back, the arrow will still point to the same cable position

NASA is studying the use of hybrid reality technology to upgrade the Cold Atomic Physics Laboratory of the international space station

virtual reality head display has been used in various applications on the space station, and hybrid reality has also been used in a few cases. But usually, the goal of these activities is to make it easier for astronauts to complete a task alone. The hardware replacement activity of the cold atom laboratory marks the first use of hybrid reality head displays to improve on-site interaction between astronauts and engineers on earth; It also marks the first use of hybrid reality technology to repair scientific experiments on the space station. The preparation for the event lasted six months and was completed in cooperation with NASA’s JPL, the Johnson Space Center in Houston and the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama

“the cold atom laboratory is investing in the use of this technology on the space station, not only because it is fascinating, but also because it can provide additional capabilities for these complex tasks that we rely on astronauts to perform,” said Kamal oudrhiri, project manager of the cold atom laboratory in JPL. “This activity is a perfect demonstration of how cold atom laboratory and quantum science use hybrid reality technology.”

quantum science reveals many non intuitive features of the physical world. Some of these findings have led to the development of technologies that many of us use daily, such as transistors and microchips

The cold atom laboratory is the first quantum science facility in earth orbit. Cooling atoms makes them move more slowly, making them easier to study. Moreover, ultracold atoms can also form a fifth material state, called Bose Einstein condensate, which shows typical microscopic quantum characteristics on the macro scale

in microgravity, scientists can make atoms colder and spend more time studying them than on earth. This opens up research avenues that are not available on the ground. By making the cold atom laboratory scalable, team members can add new tools and capabilities as research progresses, so they can seek answers to new questions and conduct increasingly complex and influential experiments

Jason Williams, a project scientist at the cold atom laboratory, said: “This maintenance activity enables potassium gas to be studied in the cold atom laboratory, which will enable scientists to use multi species gases to carry out dozens of new experiments in quantum chemistry and basic physics. In these gases, atoms interact in interesting ways at ultra-low temperatures that can only be achieved under microgravity. Our goal is to make the cold atom laboratory a Developing scientific facilities so that we can quickly build our research and work with astronauts to add new hardware capabilities without having to build and launch new facilities every step. ”

the hardware upgrade of facilities such as cold atom laboratory can only be completed by people who are very familiar with the hardware, because a wrong step in this process may affect the operation ability of cold atom laboratory. McArthur must work around fine and tight internal components, including more than a dozen electronic cards, labyrinth wires and cables, and sealed wires and cables Fine tuning lasers that cool atoms to near absolute zero in the vacuum chamber and observe them with infrared cameras.

the future upgrade of the cold atom laboratory will also involve real-time interaction between astronauts on the space station and team members on the ground. This is why this experimental use of hybrid reality is so encouraging for the team.

responsible for management “A mission like this requires a lot of real-time guidance with experts on the ground, and this is where hololens may be very useful,” said Jim Kellogg, head of launch vehicle and space station integration at JPL cold atom laboratory, who is responsible for the mission