On February 5, 2013, a team of Texas A&M University (TAMU) Engineering personnel, led by the Dean, Dr. Kathy Banks visited the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) to discuss potential areas of engineering and research collaboration.  The TAMU group included Chip Hill, Director of the Space Engineering Research Center (SERC).  The trip was established and coordinated by NASA’s Matt Leonard, the NASA Liaison to the College of Engineering. In attendance for JSC were Steve Altemus, Deputy Center Director, Laurie Hansen, Director of the Engineering Directorate, Jeff Davis, the Director of Human Health and Performance, and Eileen Stansberry the Director of the Astromaterial Directorate.  After overview briefings on the organizations and interests represented, splinter sessions were held to discuss opportunities with all the above JSC Directorates, including the Mission Operations.  These sessions yielded several potential areas that NASA technology needs fit well with A&Ms research and education capabilities.

The afternoon highlights of the visit included a tour of the Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV) Rover and the robotics lab.  The Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV) is a modular multi-mission vehicle concept that consists of a pressurized cabin that can be mated either with a wheeled chassis to form a rover for planetary surface exploration, or to a flying platform for open space missions such as servicing satellites and missions to near-Earth asteroids.  The pictures below show an external spacesuit docked to the SEV cabin (the astronaut enters the suit from inside the cabin), and Dr. Banks driving the SEV rover.

SEV Rover

Dr. Banks, Dean of TAMU College of Engineering, drives the SEV Rover at NASA JSC

The robotics activity at NASA/JSC has developed a number of robot concepts including Robonaut and Robonaut 2, or R2, which is a humanoid robot capable of dexterous manipulation.  Sent to the International Space Station in 2011 with the intention of eventually taking over tasks too dangerous or mundane for astronauts, upgrades to the R2 system continue to produce novel advances in the field of robotics.   The tour included demonstrations of Robonaut 2, and an Exo-Skeleton and Glove.  A team of TAMU graduate students, led by Dr. Aaron Ames of Mechanical Engineering, is onsite assisting with the robotics research.  Shown below, JSC employee Jonathan Rogers, A&M Class of ’97 demonstrates Robonaut 2.

Former Student Jonathan Rogers '00 stands with Robonaut 2

The group also had the opportunity to see other JSC facilities and discuss their potential, including the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, and the Lunar Curation facility.  Overall the trip yielded a number of ideas for future collaboration as well as emphasizing the number of Aggies already engaged in the Johnson Space Center’s strategic space initiatives.

The participants from TAMU College of Engineering included:  Dean Katherine Banks, Magda Lagoudas, Chip Hill, Helen Reed, John Valasek, Helen Reed, Jay Porter, Dianne Kanipe, Dave Kanipe