Astronauts are trying Microsoft HoloLens in space

The holographic headset will help crews with tricky spacecraft repairs.

Astronauts will soon have plenty of sweet tools at their disposal, but nothing quite like this -- as promised, NASA recently began testing Microsoft HoloLens aboard the International Space Station. The augmented reality headset is there as part of an experimental project, Sidekick, that gives crews a helping hand without having to flip through thick manuals or stay on the radio. Someone on the ground can use Skype to not only offer voice directions during repairs, but draw notes at the moment they're relevant. They'll also get animated visuals on top of real-world objects, showing them how to complete less-than-obvious tasks.

It's going to be a long time before HoloLens is standard issue, but it should change how crews receive training and cope with crises. Rookie astronauts might not need to spend quite so much time preparing on the ground, since they'll have convenient reminders when in space. Veterans, meanwhile, could don a headset and start working when there's not enough time to review procedures. Much of this technology will only really be useful in Earth orbit (interplanetary communication delays are minutes long at best), but it could still be helpful for spacefarers visiting Mars and other places where the folks back home can only provide limited help.