In some sense, he added, Lockheed will have to borrow from the long heritage of space robots exploring the solar system. Curiosity rover, for example, can do tasks such as choose rocks for analysis. Space probes also know when to shut themselves off if a huge problem occurs and cry for help from home.
Lockheed is working with MDA — the company responsible for the robotic arms Canadarm and Canadarm2 and a two-armed robot called Dextre on the International Space Station — to figure out concepts for robotic operations on Gateway.
Space will be at a premium because Gateway will only have one module for living and working. Luckily, electronics are smaller than when the ISS was first put together in 1998. Astronauts docking with the future lunar space station may be able to use tablets after the Orion spacecraft is safely parked. Storing the tablet requires little more than velcroing it to a wall.
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But some things can't be miniaturized as easily. The ISS has an exercise bike, a treadmill, and an advanced resistive device for weightlifting. This exercise equipment wouldn't all fit in Gateway, at least in their current configuration. There also would be challenges for sleep stations, cooking, and privacy. So Lockheed is testing out a full-scale model of the habitat, where NASA contractors can try out different devices to see how well they might fit together. The fit is also tested out in virtual reality.
"I went with my family on an RV trip — if you think about an RV, one minute you are eating at a table, and the next minute that table becomes your bed," Pratt said. "You're reconfiguring the space for the need that you have [at the time]. It's very different from what they do on ISS, where there are a lot of modules and each module has its own purpose."