As the ISS slowly grows in size the astronauts that crew it are going to have work loads even greater than they have now. Because of budget problems the seven man crew was cut two three men and sometimes only two.
Small semi autonomous devices like this could prove to be a valuable aid in getting tasks done faster and with less stress on the crew while on EVA. So far NASA has concentrated on little robots that are inside the crew space and zip around with little fans. This will be able to be extra ‘eyes’ for the ground controllers so they can get a better view on how things look on the surface of the station or even a docked shuttle. Anything that can keep a manned EVA off the schedule is a good thing, space is a dangerous place!
However, I have seen how a device that is supposed to save you time and make life easier can do just the opposite. My PDA (Viewsonic V36) has cause an untold amount of annoyance and stress when I try to get it to do something that is clearly SHOULD be able to do but can’t. This would be ActiveSync with my XP laptop. But I digress, as long as these are over seen by a ground station and causes no additional work load on the crew, everything should be ok.
The little guys are quite amazing, below is a short list of technology that it will have onboard:
Technology innovations include rechargeable xenon gas propulsion, a rechargeable lithium ion battery, custom avionics based on the PowerPC 740/750 microprocessor, “camera-on-a-chip” imagers with video compression, micro electromechanical system gyroscopes, precise relative GPS navigation, digital radio frequency communications, micro-patch antennas, digital instrumentation networking and compact mechanical packaging.