NASA is working with nonprofit research and development laboratory Draper in using motion tracking technology to help the space agency figure out how to build better space stations.

The design of space habitats will increase in importance when planning missions as humans travel deeper into space. To develop better designs, NASA will be fitting astronauts aboard the International Space Station with motion tracking devices to determine how they move about in their environment.

NASA is looking to determine which parts of the space station are being used more by astronauts and which ones are not used as often, and to see if any improvements can be made on the design of the habitat.

"In the past, spacecraft design studies focused on the square footage needed per person," said project principal investigator Kevin Duda for Draper in an email to tech news website Gizmodo.

Now, NASA and Draper are looking to know how astronauts are using the parts of the space station, which would help determine the volume needed for certain tasks, ranging from research processes to exercise routines. The technology could also show the interaction between the astronauts and their environments, such as how near or far spaces such as bathrooms and kitchens should be near living spaces.

This could be considered as trivial details, but for the astronauts who are stuck in a space station for long periods of time, even the smallest details to improve their living conditions would help prevent any additional stress.

The results of the project may not only lead to improved space stations, but could also help in the design of the first habitats of humans that would be built on Mars.

The motion tracking device developed by Draper incorporates low-cost inertial sensing and optical technology to collect data on the orientation and location of astronauts. Duda said that Draper is looking to get them up to the ISS astronauts over the next three years to five years.

Draper engineers tested out a prototype of the motion tracking device on a mock-up of the space station at the Johnson Space Center, and the results can be seen in the video below.

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