More Than A Robot: Designing for the Unique Advantages of Sending Humans to Mars

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NASA plans to send humans to Mars as early as the 2030s. Such a complex and expensive undertaking is justified by the fact that only humans have the unique set of abilities inherent to scientific exploration. A team of four graduate students from Carnegie Mellon’s Master of Human-Computer Interaction program took a user-centered design approach to identify breakdowns in current processes used in the practice and execution of extraplanetary exploration. Through a combination of secondary research, co-design, body storming, and ethnographic research including interviews and field studies, they found that current operational procedures constrain the human abilities of physical agility, adaptability, and perceptiveness. This effectively ignored the advantage of human agency over robotics. They used this insight to prototype a solution designed to streamline mission operations. This prototype was then tested against the goal of allowing team members to focus on leveraging their unique human abilities to deliver higher scientific return.

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