Holo-SEXTANT: an Augmented Reality Planetary EVA Navigation Interface
Future planetary exploration for teams of astronauts and rovers can be enhanced through the use of augmented reality (AR) for the purpose of navigating a planned traverse. We present Holo-SEXTANT: a proof of concept AR navigation system tested during simulated Extravehicular Activities (EVA) during the Biologic Analog Science Associated with Lava Terrains (BASALT) exploration field campaign in November 2017, at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Wrist displays and tablets have long been standard tools for navigation and used for analog planetary EVA traverses. However, they distract the astronaut from their environment as the astronaut repeatedly has to look at the display leading to the potential for loss of situational awareness. More primitive navigation methods, such as guidance through voice commands from mission control can also take up mental resources and remove the focus from exploring the environment. Holo-SEXTANT introduces a new approach that allows traverse plans to be overlaid on the terrain in the display, enabling the user to view their environment while always keeping track of the location of the path. The system has geolocation awareness and thus relies only on geographic coordinates of the path as an input, allowing for the display of any arbitrary traverse path. It can be actuated by voice control and includes real-time information displays relevant to the user’s location. During the BASALT deployment, the Holo-SEXTANT system was tested in hazardous terrain where no natural or visually obvious paths exist, making the tool essential. We present data on the quality of the navigation achieved with the AR display and prove that this is a viable solution for navigation. We highlight limitations observed during our in-field testing and feedback from the analog astronaut crew involved in the BASALT 2017 campaign. We conclude with a set of recommendations for future development of more advanced AR navigation interfaces.