Credit: NASA Haughton-Mars Project


If you’re a Spinal Tap aficionado like me, “Smell the Glove” always brings back palpable music memories played by that mock heavy-metal band.

But for future human exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond one expects more from a glove!

And that’s the promise of an “astronaut smart glove” – a human-machine interface to wirelessly operate a wide array of robotic assets, like flying drones via simple single-hand gestures.

Devon Island in the High Arctic, home base for the NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) encampment.
Credit: HMP/Screengrab Inside Outer Space

High arctic testing

That technology has been evaluated on Devon Island in the High Arctic, home base for the NASA Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) encampment.

In a 2019 field test, smart glove technology was integrated to an existing spacesuit used in analog studies at HMP. With it, astronauts could easily control a range of robotic assets, making science and exploration operations on the Moon, Mars and at other destinations more effective and productive.

That’s the word from Pascal Lee, a planetary scientist with the SETI Institute and the Mars Institute, and director of the NASA Haughton-Mars Project at NASA Ames Research Center.

“When I first saw Ntention’s smart glove in action, I immediately thought of Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law: ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,’” recalled Lee.

Credit: HMP


“A pressurized spacesuit is relatively rigid, and hand and finger motions meet with substantial resistance, notes Lee. By using the Astronaut Smart Glove the sensitivity of hand motions is adjustable and can be set high, which means the technology might be adaptable to a stiff pressurized spacesuit,” he said.

Nimbleness and comfort

Future planetary spacesuits are expected to improve in nimbleness and comfort over time. But, as pressurized vessels, spacesuits are likely to remain fundamentally cumbersome, limiting the dexterity and precision with which astronauts may perform tasks such as collecting samples and operating robots.

Giving a hand on this issue is Ntention, a forward thinking group that developed the smart glove technology tested during this year’s HMP-2019 summer field campaign.

“Our philosophy is to create technology that makes human-machine interfacing intuitive and seamless,” said Moina Medboe Tamuly, COO and co-founder of the Norway-based Ntention, and a field participant at HMP-2019.

The Ntention smart glove uses a micro-controller to read different kinds of sensors, capturing even the subtlest of motions of the hand and fingers, and wirelessly transfer these to a mobile device that controls the drone or any other robot.


HMP-2019 team members evaluated the Astronaut Smart Glove technology through a series of field tests involving the tele-operation of commercial drones.

In the NASA Artemis era, smart hands do smart things on the Moon.
Credit: NASA

On the Moon, the lack of a substantial atmosphere on the Moon means that drones there might use propulsive gas thrusters.

On Mars, where there is a substantial atmosphere, albeit thinner than Earth’s, drones might use either rotors or thrusters, depending on the altitude of the sites where they would fly, explains a NASA Haughton-Mars Project statement.

The HMP worked with the SETI Institute, the Mars Institute, NASA Ames Research Center, along with Collins Aerospace and Ntention on the astronaut smart glove.

Field tests at HMP-2019 showcased how an astronaut in a spacesuit would be able to single-handedly perform several key science and exploration tasks with ease using the smart glove and an augmented reality visualization interface.

Other tests at HMP-2019 quantitatively rated the drone handling qualities allowed by the smart glove interface using standardized flight test metrics.

Go to this informative video: Mars On Earth – Astronaut Smart Glove

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