… and other ponderings in 11th-dimensional space

Dr. Barajas will be the opening Keynote Speaker at the IEEE Workshop on Engineering Applications (WEA) in Bogotá, Colombia

Apr 26th, 2012 | By | Category: Aerospace, Featured Articles, Mars Desert Research Station, NASA, Robonaut 2

Talks Titles:

– NASA-GM Robonaut 2: An Engineering Revolution in Robotics and Automation

– Mars Desert Research Station: Engineering Challenges in Self-Sufficiency Conditions

For more information please go to the IEEE WEA website.


NASA-GM Robonaut 2: An Engineering Revolution in Robotics and Automation


Reaching the technologic revolution of the Neolithic took modern humans over 200,000 years. Another 12,000 years later, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Industrial Revolution brought unprecedented advances in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, science and technology. In the last century alone we have gone through the Atomic, Jet, and Space Ages, and we are now in the midst of the Information Age. The next major technological milestone still to come, “The Robotics & Automation Revolution”, will not take millennia, centuries or even decades, it will be upon us in only a few years. This Cybernetic Singularity will not just be a tipping point but a process where humanity will continuously augment its physical, mental, emotional and social capabilities via effective machine-brain interfaces to a level that they become fully embodied and therefore indistinguishable from its own.

From the large scale manufacturing point of view, the main areas of immediate technological development that will enable this transformation include the mastering of high level & intuitive human-robot interfaces, flexible & robust perception, highly flexible & dexterous robots/automation/end-effectors, safe integration & harmony with humans, and distributed robotic intelligence that can learn from social interaction. By changing paradigms from robots programmed offline, to tele-operated robots, to learning robots, to thinking robots and eventually to autonomous robots, we aim to enhance and complement the role of humans on the production line by reducing or eliminating worker time spent on routine, non-critical, dangerous, or repetitive functions as well as by compensating for human physical, environmental, and cognitive limitations. Exemplifying this approach, General Motors and NASA partnered to develop Robonaut 2 (R2), the first humanoid robot in space. R2 took flight aboard the STS-133 Shuttle Discovery and became a permanent resident of the International Space Station.

Mars Desert Research Station: Engineering Challenges in Self-Sufficiency Conditions


The Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) aims to provide a realistic simulation of the survival conditions that humans will encounter in Mars/space settlement missions. This talk will present some of the findings of the mission in terms of engineering challenges for both operational and logistical aspects of the experiment. The Mars Society selected the MDRS Crew 109 for a 2-week long mission which started on December 17, 2011. Dr. Barajas was chosen as the Chief Engineer and Robotics Specialist for this mission. He was responsible for maintaining and managing all necessary systems for self-sufficient operations of a Mars Analog Habitat located in Utah’s high-mountain desert. Main systems under his responsibility included power generation, water, heating, electrical, plumbing, green habitat, All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs), Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) suits, radio and satellite communications. He provided complete operational readiness and availability of GPS trackers, radios, EVA suits and vehicles for all EVA missions.

Overall, the MDRS Crew 109 logged over 53 hours and 230 miles in 23 analog EVAs. They also participated in a geological study by performing multiple cone penetrometer blowcount tests and soil core samples to map hydrous soil locations. Dr. Barajas coordinated repairs, logging and maintenance tasks with the remote engineering team to ensure safe and functional operations of the mission. Finally, he field-tested and improved the controllability, observability, and human-machine interface of a mini-rover on the ‘Mars’ environment.

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