A HUD (Head Up Display) allows a computer to display information directly into a user's line of sight and thus allows them to interface with that computer without needing to look at a tablet or whatever. Additionally, if the HUD is combined with some sort of spacial sensing system, it can augment the user's capabilities by, for example, creating virtual navigation cues or highlighting parts that need to be replaced.

Now, since astronauts are probably the ideal a target audience for a HUD system, I'm surprised that there isn't one in current EVA suits already and that the astronauts on the ISS don't regularly use them (eg. google glass/ hololens).

What plans do NASA (or others) currently have for integrating HUDs into spacesuits or into regular ISS operations?

  • $\begingroup$ Don't be surprised. Current EVA suits were designed in the 1970s. space.stackexchange.com/a/10475/6944 $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Jun 26 at 13:35
  • $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble still, I imagine this would be something easily retrofitted: some astronauts already wear glasses, why not smart glasses while they're at it... $\endgroup$ – Dragongeek Jun 26 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ "easily retrofitted" is not a phrase usually thrown around w/ spacesuits. $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Jun 26 at 14:52
  • $\begingroup$ The HUD should not add any additional risk for the life of the wearer. In case of a HUD fire there will be no fire extinguisher available nor any oxygen mask to breathe smoke free air. So the HUD should be not in the spacesuit, it should be outside. $\endgroup$ – Uwe Jun 27 at 16:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe besides power supply (eg li-ion batteries) are there any particularly flammable parts of a HUD like a Google glass? Afaik astronauts already have power and electronics I their helmets in the form of microphones and loudspeakers. $\endgroup$ – Dragongeek Jun 27 at 16:52

NASA has been considering the idea of integrating HUDs into spacesuits for a while. This slide deck gives a decent overview of some of the ideas that the agency has been considering. NASA has also received suggestions from the public (for instance, via its Space Apps Challenge) on what a spacesuit HUD might look like. ESA has also conducted research into HUDs for spacesuit, and even published a paper with a proposed design in 2017.

The main challenges that have prevented the inclusion of HUDs in spacesuits are space constraints (given the amount of life support equipment, etc. that needs to be packed into the suit along with any accoutrements), reliability/longevity under EVA conditions, and mass constraints (you don't want the already-heavy suit to be too top heavy or be any more massive than necessary). However, it does seem that the next generation NASA spacesuit, the xEMU, will have some sort of digital informatics display (though whether it'll be an AR-style HUD or something else isn't clear).

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