Overview of the PSA: The Personal Satellite Assistant
(PSA) is a volleyball-sized robot that was prototyped in 2003-2004 to operate
on a wide variety of spacecraft and could even go to
Mars. The goal was to provide the astronauts with a robot assistant
to help them with their daily tasks, monitor the environment on the space vehicle, and
to venture into situations that might be too dangerous for humans.
The PSA was designed to propel itself autonomously with eight small fans or
impellers (with vents and louvers) and float effortlessly in free
fall on the space station. Like the fictional tricorder on "Star
Trek," the PSA had sensors that could detect the pressure
and temperature of the air, as well as concentrations of gases such
as carbon dioxide. For astronauts living in a sealed aluminum can
in the vacuum of space, this kind of information is essential.
The PSA was not fully developed, but it was planned to connect to computers using
a wireless network. This would enable PSA to access information about hardware,
inventory, crew schedules and science experiments. The information
could then be shown on a small LCD display on the PSA, or spoken. If
crew members had a question, they could simply ask the PSA with microphones
on their headsets. The PSA was designed to have advanced voice-recognition and
artificial intelligence technologies that would allow it to understand
spoken questions and commands. In addition, the PSA would provide
audio and video communication so that scientists on Earth could monitor
experiments on the spacecraft and have conferences with the astronauts.
This robot prototype was designed and built at NASA Ames Research Center
in Mountain View, California.
Misson: The PSA's mission was to keep the astronauts
safe and to assist them with their day-to-day tasks. On various
spacecraft, the PSA was designed to move about,
monitoring the air composition
and temperature with its sensors. The PSA would communicate with
computers on the spacecraft and alert the astronauts and Mission
there was a problem.
The PSA was also designed to assist the astronauts by keeping track of their schedules,
tasks, and scientific experiments and would monitor supplies on the
spacecraft. When the astronauts would repair something, the PSA could
get the information from the main computer and give the astronauts
step-by-step instructions. The PSA could also use its video
camera to show the ground crew on earth what is happening on the
Inspiration: Part of the inspiration for the design
of the PSA came from the movie "Star Wars," where Luke
Skywalker did lightsabre training with a small floating sphere. The
astronauts asked for a device like a tricorder on "Star Trek," that
checks the atmosphere on alien planets. So the scientists and engineers
at NASA are designing a volleyball-sized robot that floats and has
sensors to check the atmosphere - the PSA!
Learn more about the history
of the PSA! >>