Louisiana State University’s (LSU) College of Engineering will collaborate with NASA in 2023 to develop methods to properly train a construction workforce in extraterrestrial construction. The collaboration will involve various disciplines, including engineering, glass, construction science, and architecture, among others.

LSU construction management assistant professor Amir Jafari leads the project. Throughout the next year, the team will learn how construction skills on Earth translate to working on a foreign planet. This will allow the team to understand what skills are needed for a future extraterrestrial workforce.

“The vision of becoming an interplanetary species requires the construction industry to face an unprecedented challenge, extraterrestrial construction,” says Jafari. “To promote feasible and sustainable space exploration, these habitats and other infrastructures are envisioned to be built in situ, which would shape a generation of the extraterrestrial construction industry. Accordingly, the role of construction workers in future extraterrestrial projects will be significantly different from the current practice on Earth.”

The project will begin with a two-day, interdisciplinary meeting. Experts from all occupations will meet and build a hierarchy of the skills required by future workers along with merging technologies that can be used to integrate transferable skills for developing a future-ready workforce from a diverse set of perspectives.

The meeting will also be used to inform the design of an AI-assisted, simulation-based virtual construct prototype, says Jafari. He and fellow LSU researchers will then design a simulation-based 3D training environment using Unity3D and Unreal Engine.

The training environment will consist of two key technological features: an artificial intelligence program that will offer personalized learning experiences and an immersive virtual reality simulation that allows instructors to construct training experiences.

The simulation-based training environment will enable building-training scenarios of human-robot collaborations in the context of extraterrestrial construction, along with other existing and future workforce domains. To simulate accurate physical characteristics of extraterrestrial environments, construction materials and robot mechanics, the team will use a high-fidelity physics simulation toolkit.

Once the work is completed, Jafari says the team plans to use its initial results and prototyped tool to submit a three-year grant proposal, which could be up to $2 million, to continue and advance this work.

The project is funded by a nearly $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.