Professors to partner with NASA on project

UH researchers may never walk on the moon, but their work can help the people – or machines – who will.’

NASA recruited a team of UH researchers to examine and improve navigation systems for lunar exploration. The navigation systems will allow crew members on space shuttles to contact their lunar bases, find their way back if they get lost and communicate with each other while in space.

‘ ‘If NASA is going to send rovers to the moon and they have to move around, one problem is getting lost. So how do you keep track of those once they leave the base?’ Heidar Malki, associate dean for research and graduate studies at the College of Technology, said.

NASA recruited Malki to propose an answer to this problem.’

Malki accepted the challenge alongside UH professor Karolos Grigoriadis, director of the interdisciplinary program in aerospace engineering.

‘We were contacted to propose methodologies to address this problem,’ Grigoriadis said. ‘(NASA) needs to be able to pinpoint, accurately, the location of rovers and astronauts on the moon.’

Malki said the best way to keep the devices from getting lost is to have different types of sensors that depend on strict accuracy and reliability.

‘ ‘We can use the information coming from these sensors,’ Malki said.’ ‘It’s not the same as on Earth because we have GPS systems that you can (use to) pinpoint exactly where they are to find the location.’

GPS is not available on the moon, so Malki and Grigoriadis must create a reliable algorithm that uses sensors on the moon to track and safely return explorers.

‘We hope there will be a continuation,’ Grigoriadis said.’ ‘The two-year project will be mostly investigation of sensors and what are the best in respect to cost, reliability, accuracy, weight and power consumption.’

The researchers will examine a variety of methodologies to determine which ones will succeed and which will fail under the conditions rovers will face on the moon.

‘Reliability is important and fault-tolerance is as well,’ Grigoriadis said.’ ‘You don’t want somebody to get lost because our sensor fails. This means if our sensor fails, you need to have the ability to realize and recognize which sensor failed so you can ignore the information or disregard the information coming from the sensor.’

Malki and Grigoriadis hope the work that goes into the building of these lunar modules will allow NASA to control rovers from the ground as well as by teams in space.

‘If there are multiple rovers, you want them to have a knowledge of where the other rovers or astronauts are,’ Grigoriadis said.’ ‘Air-base navigation is very important as well, so they know at the command center where every rover is located.’

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