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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 Control if 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 spacecraft.

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! >>