Boeing DigitalSpace Raytheon
SimStation (NASA Ames)
NASA Ames Research Center
NASA Ames Research Center
K. Foley B. Damer T. Cochrane W. Clancey
M. Sierhuis
M. Shirley

Title: “Sim Hab” Virtual Environments for Moon and Mars Habitat Design

The past few years has seen an expansion in research into human habitation including closed and open life support systems, analogue habitats for human work-practice studies and overall habitat design [1]. Habitats for human exploration and permanent presence on the Moon and Mars will require vastly expanded habitat research and design validation efforts. Submitters of this white paper have been involved in supporting a number of analogue Mars habitats including FMARS at Haughton Crater in northern Canada and the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah in the USA. Teams at DigitalSpace and NASA Ames Research Center have developed an agent-based 3D simulation platform called BrahmsVE that permits accurate re-construction of the actual life and procedures recorded at FMARS and MDRS.

We believe that the construction and operation of physical analogue habitats must be coupled with detailed re-constructed simulation and resulting analysis of the human-machine interaction observed aboard those habitats. Project Constellation and CEV 2014 will require extensive physical and virtual analogue work practice mock-ups as the CEV is a medium-duration vehicle. This need for mock-ups will expand with subsequent efforts to establish a long term surface presence on the Moon and then Mars. Work practice analysis and design for space station, habitats and long duration flight vehicles will be essential to create designs that maximize crew psychological and physiological health.

Background and Relevance to New Exploration Mission

Starting in 1999, teams at NASA’s Ames Research Center, DigitalSpace and other partners began a long term collaboration to extent a powerful agent-driven platform (Brahms) to support 3D virtual environment simulations that mix humans and machines in future deep space mission scenarios [2, 3]. To inform this process, W. Clancey, M. Sierhuis et al participated in several analogue Mars habitats constructed by the Mars Society and others in the high north of Canada (FMARS) and in the desert of the American west (Mars Desert Research Station, MDRS). Years of field experience, notes and captured video of IVA and EVA activities by crews at FMARS and MDRS permitted the modeling of agent-driven 3D reconstructions of observed analogue crew activities. Emerging from this work is the BrahmsVE (Brahms with virtual environment) platform funded by NASA SBIR for commercial launch in 2005. 3D scenes from BrahmsVE applications can be seen in figures 1-2 below.

Carrying this experience forward to the President’s 2004 vision of Moon-Mars exploration, the BrahmsVE platform was employed in April of 2004 to create a number of concepts of Lunar bases and vehicles modeled from Boeing vehicle concepts. These virtual Lunar analogues were presented at a Boeing workshop in Houston and are part of a continuing project. BrahmsVE Lunar habitat scenarios for Boeing are depicted in figures 3-5.

BrahmsVE is now being extended to support the SimStation project being carried out at Ames, JSC and elsewhere by M. Shirley, T. Cochrane and others. BrahmsVE is now proving itself in its designed ability to deliver industrial strength visualizations rapidly via the web, using industry standard components such as Adobe Atmosphere, PHP, MySQL, SOAP and HTML. BrahmsVE was developed to replace older, proprietary platforms with a light-weight, license-free, open source and open content solutions that can be easily developed and shared from desktops at any NASA center, private enterprise or university. For an overview of BrahmsVE’s architecture see figure 6 below. Beyond its use in simulating habitats, BrahmsVE is now being employed in the SimStation project, EVA simulation at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, IVA simulation for ISS, and was also used to construct an outreach effort “Drive on Mars” featuring the MER missions, now being used by students and educators. BrahmsVE applications can be visited on the web at [4].

Project Constellation/CEV, Project Prometheus and future Lunar and Mars human surface presence cannot be designed, engineered, risk-assessed and costed without substantial up-front modeling and simulation of both parametric system elements and 3D re-constructions. Due to the large number of players and expertise brought to this problem, only a platform that runs in the open environment of the Web with a license-free plug-in backed by rapid prototyping tools available at low or no cost can service this need. Four years of development of BrahmsVE by NASA and its partners has brought such a platform into being and it is already being used by the aerospace industry, including partner Boeing. The FMARS and MDRS initiatives as well as related work on Mobile Agents represents some of the most advanced recent field work surrounding human presence on the surface of Mars. For the new exploration initiative, BrahmsVE is a capable platform for simulation, design and iteration of analogue habitats in the spirit of spiral development.

Proposed Follow-on Program of Research and Development

It is proposed that BrahmsVE be extended to serve a wider set of needs within NASA and the commercial sector. As the platform is already funded to its commercial launch date in 2005, extensions to the platform will only increase its viability as a spiral development and systems-within-systems design enabling tool. Working with partners Adobe, Intel, Boeing and the thirty corporate members of the 3DForum community, a body of BrahmsVE applications, 3D models, source code and behaviors could be made available without license or cost for the purposes of engaging a wider community in Moon-Mars exploration concept development and visualization. We also envisage a wider role for BrahmsVE in outreach, bringing real engineering studies to schools, universities and the wider public, aiding in the creation of the next generation of engineers and leaders who will bring the Exploration Office’s vision to reality.

[1] Habitation, International Journal for Human Support Research (on the web at:
[2] Clancey, W. J., Sachs, P., Sierhuis, M., and van Hoof, R.1998. Brahms: Simulating Practice for Work Systems Design. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 49, 831-865.
[3] B. Damer, M. Sierhuis, R. van Hoof, B. Campbell, D. Rasmussen, M. Neilson, C. Kaskiris, S. Gold, G. Brandt (2001). Brahms VE: A Collaborative Virtual Environment for Mission Operations, Planning and Scheduling, Final Report for STTR Contract #NAS2-01019, October 8, 2001. URL:
[4] DigitalSpace project pages and publications about BrahmsVE applications are available on the Web at:

Supporting Images: BrahmsVE simulation environments for FMARS/MDRS (2000-2004)
Figure 1: Simulated EVA based on video captured of FMARS analogue Mars station EVA crew (Summer 2002) Figure 2: Interior of FMARS showing virtual agent-based reconstruction of a water tank filling exercise (Summer 2003)

Lunar Habitat Simulations for Boeing, Concept Prometheus Vehicle (2004)
Figure 3: BrahmsVE virtual model of a Boeing concept lander (April 2004) Figure 4: Visualization of an early lunar vehicle study (Eckart, Lunar Base Handbook, 1999) Figure 5: Real-time visualization of a Prometheus class interplanetary craft from a Boeing design (April 2004)

Figure 6: Current high level process architecture for BrahmsVE/OWorld platform