Transcript for NASA Connect - Personal Satellite Assistant - The Astronaut's Helper

[Robot:] I am monitor, to
respond to the name Roby.

I was created by Dr. Mobius on
the main sequence star Altair

as documented in the classic
science fiction movie,

"Orbited in Planet".

On earth, I have been staring
in movies and television

for nearly fifty years and I am
the most famous robot of all time.

Modest too.

Well, enough about me, when
I heard that NASA was a need

of robot helper for the astronauts,

I volunteer for the job.

But wouldn't you know, NASA is
already creating their own robot

design to meet their special needs
and space flight requirements.

I guess NASA is not ready for
any famous robotic actor like me

to work on space station.

On this episode of NASA
Connects, you will be introduce

to the systems on this robot and
the math, sciences and technology,

that go into designing of robot
for astronauts in a spacecraft.

In your classroom, you'll
do a cool hand on activity

to solve the problem the
engineers are facing.

How to reduce the size of the robot
and using the online activity,

to learn about the forces

that affect how the
robot moves in space.

Stay tuned as host
Jennifer Pulley takes you

on another exciting
episode of NASA Connect.

PSA, the Astronauts' Helper.

[ Music ]

[Jennifer:] Hi, I
am Jennifer Pulley

and welcome to NASA Connects.

The show that connects you to
math, science, technology and NASA.

We are here at the Tech
Museum of Innovation,

in San Jose, California.

Then you know, this episode of
NASA Connect is all about robots

in NASA's space program.

Now you may think about robots
as a mechanical creature?

They walk around, but did you
know that the first person

to use the word robot,
was a scientist at all,

in fact he was a Czechoslovakian
writer named Karel Capek.

In Czech, the word
robota means forced labor.

Now in his play Rossum's Universal
Robots, Capek used the word

to describe electronic servants,

who turn on their master,
when given emotions.

In 1941, science fiction
writer Isaac Asimov,

first choose the word robotics, to
described the technology of robots

and predicted the rise of
a powerful robot industry.

In the 1950, it seems
like robots were featured

in nearly every science
fiction movie and TV show.

[Robot:] Like me.

[Jennifer Pulley:] But since
then, robots have moved

from science fiction to science,

UNIMATE was the first
industrial robot,

used in a General Motors
automobile factory in 1961.

Since then, the field
of robotics has advanced

as computers have become
more powerful and compact.

With powerful computers
scientists can program robot

with artificial intelligence,
so that they can make decisions.

[Robot:] When I let go it
will straight away start again

into the right slinky action.

[Jennifer Pulley:] During
the course of this program,

you will be asked several
enquiry base questions.

After the question
appear on the screen,

your teacher will pause the
program to allow you time to answer

and discuss the questions.

This is your time to explore
and become critical thinkers.

But before we take a look at all
the different types of robot,

here are some questions for
you to think about and discuss.

If you could have your
own personal robot,

what would you like
your robot to do?

How intelligent would
your robot have to be?

How would you communicate
with your robot?

Teachers pause the program and
students write down what you think.

Okay guys.

Now let's meet a robotics
engineer and learn about some

of the different types of
robots being build at NASA.

[Dr. Ayanna Howard:] Thanks Jen.

My name is Dr. Ayanna
Howard here at JPL,

NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in California.

This is the Magi, but we
actually test the robots,

before sending them to Mars.

NASA used its robots to do things
that are too dangerous for humans.

Robots are used to explore
planets and even maintain

and repair the outside of vehicles,

such as the international
space station.

[Speaker 1:] Hey guys!

Did you design your robot to do
things that are too dangerous

for you to do or too tedious?

[Dr. Ayanna Howard:] Robots are
the tools that allow scientist

to reach beyond the
earth to other planet.

In the 1970, NASA sent a spacecraft
to explore the planet Mercury,

it was called Mariner 10 probe.

It flew passed the planet three
times and took thousands of photos.

For the first time, scientist
could actually see what the surface

of the planet looks like.

Rovers, actually robots,
they can land another planets

and move around.

Sojourner was the first of the
rovers to land on the planet Mars.

Its mission was the test
the rocks in the air.

He takes several minutes
for command signal

to reach a robot in space.

Sometimes a robot can't
wait for mission control.

It has to make decisions
on his own,

this visibility is called autonomy;

Sojourner was somewhere autonomist,

which means it can make
some decisions on its own.

I worked on autonomy
for Mars exploration.

You want to

[inaudible] precisely where
there are good samples for study.

We wanted to be careful so we
don't hit any cliffs of boarders

on the surface of Mars.

We can use airbag, but
we can't land precisely.

That's why we used
artificial intelligence.

Now only can we use
artificial intelligence

to land the spacecraft
safely on Mars,

but we can use the
same intelligence,

to give the rover a
little bit more smartness

when we actually get
to the surface.

The future's space
exploration depends

on building, these smart robots.

[Jennifer:] Thank you Dr. Howard.

Okay guys, let's head over to the
NASA and its Research Center here

in California to learn
more about robots

from researcher Maria Baulat.

What a cool robot!

Tell me about K-9.

[Maria:] K-9 is a prototype
of a Mars exploration rover,

with video cameras so we can take
3-D pictures and it's got an arm

that let us practice
putting science instruments

on rocks and on the soil.

[Jennifer:] Okay Maria, so how
will K-9 know what to do on Mars?

[Maria:] It will receive
instructions from Earth

on what experiments to conduct.

A robot shape capability
is in method

of locomotion depend
on, what you want it do.

[Jennifer:] Well besides K-9,
what other robots does NASA have?

[Maria:] We are testing
planetary robots in the Rio Tinto

or the Red River region of Spain,

where the terrain looks a
lot like the surface of Mars.

That robot is build to
burl into the ground

and look for science and life.

Robots are also being
built to maintain

and repair the outside
of the space vehicle.

Robonaut is a humanoid
robot that perform tasks

that other robots can't.

From the safety of
the space station,

an astronauts controls
the movement of Robonaut's

with the control system
know as tele-presence.

AirCam is another experimental
robot is being design

to fly outside the space station
and let's astronauts insides,

he was going on outside.

Scientists are also
designing robots

to help this out here on earth.

Kismet the sociable robot.

[Robot:] Oh, oh.

Did you say he loves me?



[Robot:] I love you to.

[Maria:] Scientist of MIT are
working on building a robot,

they can interact with people.

[Jennifer:] So there are many
different kinds of robots;

that are design to work in
many different environments.

[Maria:] That's right robots mainly
parts they can see, parts to unable

on to move around and
parts to make decision.

All this parts is for work
together for the robot function.

They make up a mechanical system.

[Jennifer:] Thanks Maria.

So can you think of
a mechanical system,

remember mechanical system
is something that made

up of many different parts
and those parts work together,

so the system will function.

Now its time for your teacher
to pause the program and for you

to answer the following question.

What is a mechanical system
and what are some examples

of mechanical systems.

You know, we use the word system
to describe something that is made

up of different parts; that
must work together in order

for the system to function.

A car is a mechanical system, and
it's made up of different parts,

like an engine, then the body,
the doors and the wheels.

Each part can get you
where you want to go,

but when the parts worked
together as a mechanical system,

you can go places with it.

The international space station
is also a mechanical system,

with parts in it that
worked together as a whole.

Say, do you know how busy the
astronauts are onboard the

international space station?

Well, let me tell you.

Each astronaut conducts hundreds
of experiments for scientist

in the United States and
in many other countries,

so make it use a little help.

Now let's go to NASA
Ames Research Center

and meet engineer Yuri
Gawdiak, he thought of a way

to help the astronauts.

Yuri tell us about how you can
help the astronauts on station?

[Yuri:] Well, in addition to do
an experiment the astronauts have

to do a lot of logistics,
inventory tracking,

air samples and water samples.

So as a research team, we want
to help offload those activities.

So we developed a robot
that we were inspired by,

by Star Trek with the
tricorder and by Star Wars

with the floating orb.

And when we added to that was
the ability to do scheduling,

procedures, training and also
environmental sensing and we wanted

to be mobile so it could go follow
the crew or go off on its own

and actually monitor by itself.

So what we developed is the
personal satellite assistant.

[Jennifer:] Yuri that is so
cool, you know lets find out more

about this robot that NASA is
building to help the astronauts.

[ Music: ]

[Jennifer:] As you watch the
program, think about your robot

as a system and the
possible need in order

to perform your task,
see the sign to it.

Now guys this is the PSA

or Personal Satellite
Assistant laboratory here

at the NASA Ames Research Center
and this is Dr. Keith Nicewarner.

[Keith:] Hi!

[Jennifer:] How are you Keith?

[Keith:] Good.

[Jennifer:] Tell us, what
will the PSA be able to do?

[Keith:] Well the PSA will be
able to check the inventory,

the temperature, the air pressure

and your composition
on the space station.

Its needs to move around
by itself in micro-gravity,

avoid things that get on its way
and communicate with computers

and people like mission
control and astronauts.

It must also understand
the astronauts commands

and what the astronauts know, when
something needs to be address.

[Jennifer:] So Keith, it sounds
like the PSA is a system that's

made up of many other systems
that almost work together.

[Keith:] That's right.

Lot of this works,
never been done before.

We have never had a robot;
that flies around by itself

in micro-gravity with humans for a
long period of time and knows what

to do and understand what you say.

[Jennifer:] What is micro-gravity?

[Keith:] Micro-gravity means that
you feel very little as a force

of gravity because the ISS and
everything in it as in free fall

as the ISS revolves
around the earth.

[Jennifer:] Want to learn
more about micro-gravity,

well then checkout the
NASA Connect program,

"Who added the micro to gravity?"

Now back to PSA.

[Keith:] PSA has proportion
system, a sensor system

for measuring things like
temperature and pressure

and detecting obstacles.

There is also a navigation
system for knowing where it is

in the station and knowing how
to get from place to place.

It also has an artificial
intelligence systems,

so it can make decisions
and a communication system,

so it can communicate with
astronauts and ground control.

[Jennifer:] How will the
PSA see where it's going,

so it can avoid obstacles;
that may get in its way?

[Keith:] The PSA will
use proximity sensor

to tell us something is near by.

All this little holes are sensors.

We are using sonar or sound waves.

[Jennifer:] Sonar!

Isn't that what bats use
to navigate and what whales

and dolphins used to
locate schools of fish.

[Keith:] Yeah, it's the same idea.

PSA also has four pairs of
cameras for stereo vision.

[Jennifer:] What is Stereo Vision?

[Keith:] The two eyes
unable depth perception,

with only one eye is difficult to
tell how far away something is.

Most animals have two eyes
because they has eight cameras,

were surveys eyes to
perceive that all around it.

Cameras will also be used to show
mission control what's happening

on the space station.

And allow video conferencing
with the astronauts.

The PSA also has a thermal
imager that looks for hot spots.

This is a very important for
doing things like looking

for an over heating rack.

The PSA will also have
a lazar point on it.

They can be control
from the ground.

Engineers on the ground would
be able to point to things

on the space stations and the
astronauts will know what they

are referring to.

[Jennifer:] Wow, the
PSA is kind of busy.

What other responsibilities
it will have?

[Keith:] Well, they can keep track
over the astronaut's schedule.

Alert them when something
needs to be done.

And give them instructions, when
they need to repair something.

[Jennifer:] So the
astronauts wouldn't have

to use their manuals anymore.

The PSA will tell them what to do.

[Keith:] That's right; the
manuals are all on electronic form,

either in the computers on the ISS,

or the computers at
mission control.

So the PSA can access the
information from the computers

and read it to the astronauts or
show it to them on a PSA's monitor.

[Jennifer:] So the PSA is a system

that contains other
system, so that it can work.

[Keith:] That's right; the PSA has
sensor, navigation, proportion,

communications and artificial
intelligence systems.

[Jennifer:] Thanks Keith.

So guys what mechanical
system did you chose.

Now, is the time for your
teacher to pause the tape,

so you can discuss
the mechanical system.

Here some examples of mechanical
systems you probably come

in contact with everyday.


[Jennifer:] Dr. Nicewarner
mentioned several PSA systems.

Now it's a time to look in
detail at one of those systems.


[Jennifer:] Hi, I am
here with Danny Andrews

and he is a research
engineer on the PSA team.

Hey Dan!

[Danny Andrews:] Hey Jennifer!

[Jennifer:] Tell me little
bit about what you do here?

[Danny Andrews:] I am a
control on automation engineer

in NASA Ames Research Center.

My team is working on
evolving the PSA robot vehicle

and designing the proportion
systems for the PSA.

We had to keep in mind that
things move differently

on the international space
station from they do here on earth.

Jen, this will be
a good time to see

if students can described two
ways in which motion of something

in space station is different
from the way things move on earth.

[Jennifer:] Dan, I think
that's a great idea.

Teachers, now it's a time to
pause the program and students,

write down two ways, that you
think items move differently

in space than they
do here on earth.

If you mentioned something
about microgravity,

now you are on the right track.

You may have seen microgravity on
the international space station.

It appears that items are floating
on the international space station.

But in fact everything is moving
or falling at the same rate.

To learn more about microgravity,
checkout the NASA Connect program,

"Who added the micro to gravity?"

So did you mention something about
friction, or lack of friction, --

you are also on the right track.

[Danny Andrews:] The
motion of an object

on the space station
is like moving on ice.

We are throwing the ball versus
rolling it on the ground.

This is a functional of
prototype of the PSA,

which means it's a working model.

We have also tested the
prototype on a granite table,

which has very little friction
like an air-hockey table.

So it's a simulation what
motion is like on the ISS.

[Jennifer:] So Dan,
how does the PSA move?

[Danny Andrews:] In this
function of proto type

with PSA, we are using fans.

We have six sets of fans
located around the robot.

Air is joining from one side of the
fans and expel out the other side

that creates a force on the robot
and unable the PSA robot to move.

It's important that we use
a quite proportion system,

because it's relatively
noisy on the space station,

and we don't want to
aggravate the problem.

We also need to test the
PSA in three dimensions.

We need to allow it
to move up and down,

left and right, forward
and backward.

Within this facility, we
have created a small crane

which lets the PSA move
as if it's in space.

We use this crane to test how
the PSA can do obstacle avoidance

and just generally get around.

[Jennifer:] Dan aren't there
some laws or rules of motion;

that affect the way things move?

[Danny Andrews:] That's right;
there are laws of motion

that apply whether you're
here on earth or on the ISS.

Sir Isaac Newton figured out
the laws of motion way back

in the sixteen hundreds.

He said that an object at
rest will remain at rest.

[Jennifer:] Sure Dan
and that make sense.

If something is sitting on a table
for instance, it will stay there

until someone moves it or
some force moves it away.

[Danny Andrews:] And also said
that once an object is in motion,

it will keep moving unless
you apply a force to it,

that even need a push or pull.

[Jennifer:] No wait a minute,
that doesn't make sense to me.

Doesn't everything just
stop moving eventually?

[Danny Andrews:] Things stop moving
because of gravity in friction,

in microgravity you can really
see these laws are work.

[Jennifer:] Let me see,
if I have this straight.

If something is moving it may or
may not have a force acting on it

and to stop it you
have to apply a force.

[Danny Andrews:] That's right,
on the ISS the PSA will float

because of microgravity and it
will keep moving once you push it.

[Jennifer:] So Newton
was a pretty smart guy.

I mean he thought this three
hundred years before NASA send

astronauts in the space.

[Danny Andrews:] Once you apply
a force like pushing the PSA,

it will move and keep moving.

In fact the PSA will keep moving
even if you turn the fan off

and apply no force at all.

[Jennifer:] Okay so how
do you stop the PSA?

[Danny Andrews:] We have to turn
the fans on again and apply a force

in the opposite direction.

[Jennifer:] Now you can check

out the way the PSA
will move on the ISS.

Here is what Newton said, an object
it rest, will remain at rest,

and object in motion
will remain in motion,

unless a force acts on it.

Now it's your turn to try
the online activity found

at the NASA Connect website.

Your challenge is to get the PSA

to the overheated racks
before the time runs out.

Each click gives a PSA one
unit of force and the direction

of the arrows remembers
Newton's law,

the PSA will keep moving unless
you apply another force to it

in the opposite direction.

Your teacher will now pause
the program; so that you can go

to your computers and
check out the activity.

[Speaker 1:] I give
the PSA too much force,

he hit the side of the ISS.

[Speaker 2:] The PSA keeps moving
if we have applied a force to it.

[Speaker 3:] You have
to apply a force

in the opposite direction
to stop the PSA.

[Danny Andrews:] Newton also has
something to say about motion

and the mass of objects.

More massive an object is
the more force is required

to accelerate or to stop it.

[Jennifer:] So if the PSA is
very massive for instance,

it's going to take a lot
of force to get it moving

and a lot of force to stop it.

[Danny Andrews:] You're right,
the greater the mass with the PSA,

the more force it
takes to slow down.

Fans have to work harder,
if we make the PSA lighter,

require less force to
slow it down and stop it.

If the PSA is going to
go to fast, it might bump

into the side of the ISS.

So we need to make the
PSA as light as possible.

The current model that you
see here is the twelve inch

working prototype.

Our goal is to reduce the PSA size

down to this eight
inch diameter model.

With the invention of
transistor, computers

and other electronics gadgets
became smaller and smaller.

[Jennifer:] Oh!

That's right.

You know, when our grand parents
were kids, they listen to radios

that were like large pieces
of furniture, today radios

and digital players
are really tiny.

[Danny Andrews:] That's right.

Computer is same power as this
PDA would fill this huge room.

The PSA has a computer inside of it

and in addition the PSA
can connect their computers

on the space station, while an
earth with a wireless connection

and use a computing
power of those computers.

[Jennifer:] So the PSA can be
small because it doesn't need

of their computer inside of it.

Well it -- why is it round?

And how do you make the show round?

[Danny Andrews:] Round shapes
don't have any sharp corners,

so the PSA won't accidentally
damage the ISS.

We designed the round shell

with the computer programs
for solid modeling.

Once the design is complete,
we sent electronic file

to the manufacture
to create a shell.

The process is called
Stereo Lithography or SLA.

To make the PSA smaller, we need
to redesign and shrink the parts

in the PSA, so that they
fit into a smaller sphere.

[Jennifer:] Oh, Oh!

Wait a minute.

I don't know that's
the best way to do it.

[Danny Andrews:] We make
things smaller though,

we have to keep something in mind,
for example the computer that's

in the PSA needs to
have space surround it.

So that they can stay cool.

The computer gives off its heat
from the surface area of the board,

which means we need to
provide space for cooling.

Additionally, when we
consider shrinking fans to fit

in smaller PSA we discovered
they became very inefficient,

forcing us to move
to a blower design.

It's similar to how leaf floats.

[Jennifer:] Okay guys let's
review some math concepts,

so you can figure out, how to
fit your parts into the PSA.

This is a rectangular prism,

now each one of its six
sides is a rectangle.

This surface area of the
rectangular prism is the sum

of the areas of the six sides.

The volume of a rectangular
prism is the area of the base,

times the height of the prism.

Let's take a look at cylinder; the
base of a cylinder is a circle.

Let's take a look at
the parts of a circle.

The circumference is the
distance around the circle.

The radius is the distance
from the centre of the circle

to any point on the circle.

The diameter of a circle
is twice the radius.

Thousands of years ago
mathematicians measured the

circumference of circles

and divided the circumference
by the diameter.

They always came up with
the same number move

around three point one four.

This number is called "Height".

Now watch this and see how we
can find the area of a circle?

We cut out circle and
move the pieces around.

Now the area is the
width times the height.

The width is five times the radius
and the height is the radius.

The surface area of a cylinder
is the sum of the areas

of the two circles and
the area of the side,

which is really a rectangle.

The volume of a cylinder
is the area

of the circle times the
height of the cylinder.

Now here is the challenge.

Find the length, height and
width of a rectangular prism;

that has a volume of
twenty four cubic inches,

fits into an eight inch PSA and has

as much surface area as possible.

Find out whether a tall cylinder

or a wide cylinder
has more surface area,

when the volume stays the same.

You can download the
files with this activity

from the NASA Connect website.

It's now time for your
teacher to pause the program;

so you can take the challenge.

Use your imagination draw figures,

take measurements
and do calculations.



[Jennifer:] The students
at Graham Middle School

in Mountain View California,
took the challenge.

Let's see some of their results.

Recall the two questions
in this activity.

One, what are the dimensions of a
rectangular prism that has a volume

of twenty-four cubic inches
fits into an eight inch PSA

and has the maximum surface area?

And two, if the volumes stays
the same, does a tall cylinder

or a wide cylinder
have more surface area?


[Speaker 1:] What you guys
think is there enough space?

[Speaker 2:] Remember I
always thinking about, how

[inaudible] was seventy-seven
point six.

[Speaker 3:] What are we gonna say?

What dimensions are
we going to recommend?

[Speaker 4:] Six by five
by zero point eight.

[Jennifer:] So guys,
what did you find?

[Speaker 1:]


[Speaker 2:] You can get
different answers depending

on how have you make
the rectangular prism?

[Speaker 3:] When the radius
increases the surface stay

as the cylinder increases.

[Jennifer:] Okay let's
summaries, the surface area

of a rectangular prism is
the sum of the surface area

of its six sides; the volume

of rectangular prism is the link
times a width, times the height.

A rectangular prism has the minimum
surface area, when it's a cube

and the surface area
increases as you flatten it.

The surface area of a cylinder is
the sum of the areas of the circles

at the top and bottom
and the area of the side.

The volume of a cylinder
is the area of the circle

at the bottom times the
height of a cylinder.

When the volume is the same,

a tall cylinder has less surface
area than a wide cylinder.

[Danny Andrews:] We have to
do calculation like this,

when we layout the design of
all the components of PSA.

[Jennifer:] Okay.

So Dan, what is the
future of the PSA?

[Danny Andrews:] Well, once we
are able to make PSA smaller;

we would like to consider a PSA,

which to further interact
to the spacecraft.

Imagine a PSA with arms, they
could actually push buttons,

retrieve tools and better
interact with the ISS.

[Speaker 1:] Of developing
effective artificial intelligence,

it is a big challenge
and being able

to understand what the astronauts
say is especially difficult

because our brains
understand things in context

or the situation we are in.

[Speaker 2:] All critical
part of the future

with the PSA is the vision system.

We need vision for everything
from navigation and control

to identifying hazards, to doing
inventory tracking and also

to recognize a crew because
we need to customize schedules

and training procedures to go
with a particular crew member.

We also used it as sort of
remove eyes for the ground flocks

that are running that operation,
so they can inspect the station

through the eyes of the PSA.

And being able to interpret,

what you can see will save
us a great deal of time.

[Jennifer:] My thanks
to Yuri, Keith and Dan

for all their information
on the PSA and don't forget,

keep checking the PSA website
for the latest developments

on this personal satellite

Well, guys that wraps up
another episode of NASA Connects.

NASA Connects would
like to thank everyone,

who helped to make
this program possible.

So got a comment, a question or
suggestions, well then email them

to or
pick up a pen and mail them

to NASA Connect, NASA Langley
Center for Distance Learning,

NASA Langley Research Center,
Mail Stop four hundred,

Hampton Virginia, two
three six eight one.

So until next time, stay connected
to math, science technology

and NASA and may be one day you
have your own personal assistant.

See you!