Commonly known as “spacewalks,” extravehicular activities (EVA) are activities that are done by astronauts while outside of a spacecraft. EVA’s are ultra-high-stakes events and involve a tremendous amount of coordination and planning; however, as technologically sophisticated as the working environments are, the planning and execution of EVA plans are surprisingly low-tech. Currently, the procedure of an entire 6-hour EVA is created in MS Word and referred to by mission control in the form of physical paper, which has inherent inefficiencies. As a result, our team was tasked with envisioning new features in our mission planning tool, Playbook, that would bring the benefits of a digital interface to the EVA execution process.
Role: Design Lead
Contribution: Project Management, Domain/User Research, UX/UI Design, Information Architecture, Usability Testing, Systems Integration
The goal of the design is to integrate data from a variety of tools and create an interactive digital representation of an EVA plan, while also making it so that the information about the state of the plan could be easily visualized, updated, and communicated upon by other mission control personnel. The specifications for V1 of the features have been developed to meet minimum viable product requirements and will leverage existing technical infrastructure of our existing product. In this way, the design aims to improve the versatility and scalability of our core Playbook code.
Because much of the development and user teams were spread throughout the country, we had to be creative with the validation and verification of our designs. We went through an in-depth process of design iterations from low-fidelity to high-fidelity, asking for feedback and ideas from stakeholders throughout each phase using video chat and screen sharing tools. With the MVP prototype completed in CYQ3 2020, we conducted virtual wizard-of-oz usability tests with five EVA flight controllers, where we were able to successfully validate the efficacy of our designs.