“And You Did That Why?”—Using an Abstraction Hierarchy to Design Interaction with Autonomous Spacecraft

John Gersh, Kevin Cropper, William Fitzpatrick, Priscilla McKerracher, Jaime Montemayor, and Daniel Ossing

We are investigating the design of user interaction with autonomous spacecraft in particular, with spacecraft where contact is made only intermittently. Our initial efforts focus on designs supporting existing spacecraft capabilities, where autonomy is reflexive and based on complicated rules. We report here an initial design concept for human interaction based on an abstraction hierarchy, produced by a work domain analysis of the spacecraft’s mission. Organizing information depiction, according to the hierarchy’s means-ends relationships, among functions and components appears to be a promising approach for providing answers to critical questions posed by operations staff. The staff needs the ability to quickly answer questions on what activities the spacecraft undertook between contacts and why, especially if the activities differ from planned or nominal operations.

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