Michael Braukus Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

October 5, 1993 (Phone: 202/358-1979) Jane Hutchison Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif. (Phone: 415/604-4968) RELEASE: 93-180 PORTABLE COMPUTER TO HELP ASTRONAUTS CONDUCT SCIENCE NASA astronauts on the next Space Shuttle mission will test an "intelligent" computer designed to help them work more efficiently and improve the quality of science in space. Known as the Astronaut Science Advisor (ASA), the system will help astronauts get the most out of the time allotted to an experiment. The ASA will undergo its first flight test during the 14-day Spacelab Life Sciences mission, scheduled for launch in early October. Also known as Principal Investigator (P.I.) in a Box, the system was developed by NASA's Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif., and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, Mass. Dr. Larry Young of MIT conceived the idea for the system during a sabbatical at Ames and Stanford University in 1987. The critical resource in flight experiments is time, said Dr. Silvano Colombano of the Ames Artificial Intelligence Research Branch. The ASA has the potential to fundamentally change the way astronauts interact with ground-based scientists in the space station era. It helps astronauts increase their productivity and improve the

scientific quality of the data they collect. Artificial intelligence is a subfield of computer science that seeks to give computers the ability to solve problems typically requiring human intelligence. - more -2Another critical factor is the limited ability of either an Earth-bound scientist or the astronaut performing a test to correct problems or follow new leads as the experiment unfolds in space. Having served as a principal investigator on several Space Shuttle missions, Young wanted to use a computer to help guide astronauts during life science experiments. Using a Macintosh PowerBook computer and a combination of commercial and NASA-developed software, the ASA provides the crew with detailed information about the experiment. "It's the next best thing to having the principal investigator on board," said Colombano. "Our goal is to increase the astronaut's ability to be a scientific collaborator with the ground-based principal investigator." The ASA has four major functions: diagnosis and trouble-shooting of experiment equipment, data collection, management of experimental procedures and detection of interesting data. The ASA recognizes something as interesting by comparing the data it collects with pre-determined rules set up by the principal investigator for analyzing data. The developers of the ASA hope to prove that an on-board assistant can significantly enhance the crews ability to perform science experiments. It also would reduce reliance on air-to-ground communications, said Colombano. The ASA was ground-tested during the first Spacelab Life Sciences mission in June 1991. During its flight test in September, it will support the Rotating Dome Experiment. Young is the Principal Investigator for this experiment, as well as an alternate payload specialist on this mission.

The Rotating Dome Experiment will study how the conflict between inner ear signals and visual cues contributes to space motion sickness. It also will measure how human adaptation to microgravity affects this interaction. Each test session involves two astronauts, one acting as the subject and the other as the operator. If the astronauts have the time, they can investigate any interesting information identified by the ASA. They also can use the computer to note any unusual circumstances that might affect the data collected. This will provide Young with additional insights when he analyzes the data after the flight. The ASA keeps track of the time spent on the experiment. If a test session is behind schedule, the ASA will suggest steps in the procedure to delete with minimal effect on the collection of data. - more -3An astronaut can ask the system to propose a new sequence of steps that could be used to get the most and best data in the time remaining. The new sequence takes into account the interesting data and results of previous sessions. The system also can lead an astronaut through trouble-shooting, step by step. If the problem is in a low-priority item, the system might recommend not making the repair. Instead, the crew could use that time to get additional data. Colombano said "his group hopes to create a general purpose system to aid science experiments in space. Such a system will be particularly critical on longer missions and on the space station," he said. "It's going to be harder and harder to train crews to do everything, so they're going to need this kind of help a lot more." - end -