Astronaut vs. Robonaut Foosball


A very popular Earth-based game is foosball.  The two player competition is sometimes called desktop hockey. Skilled foosball players must react quickly and deftly to their opponent’s swinging-paddle-shot attacks.  The picture below was created with computer graphic software of the NASA Johnson Space Center’s Integration Graphic Operations and Analysis Laboratory (IGOAL).  The IGOAL team models all manner of space missions, from space shuttle to advanced missions back to the Moon and on to Mars.  Using their expertise, models and animation tools, the programmers composed a “make-believe” game of foosball between a shuttle astronaut and their Division’s premier project Robonaut.  The lesson which follows deals with questions about the concept of space foosball, a fiction or non-fiction game?  Using the answers to the posed questions, the student is asked to compose a paragraph answering the question, “Is foosball between an astronaut and robot feasible in the cargo bay of the space shuttle?”  The exercise teaches space technology as well as reading/writing proficiency.



Above graphic by the Integrated Graphic Operations and Analysic Laboratory, NASA JSC




  1. If one knows that both the astronaut and robonaut are in a zero-gravity environment, what might not be feasible about playing foosball as shown?
  2. Since the present state of Robonaut is “tele-operated” rather than “autonomous” what can be concluded about the contest?  (Look-up the words tele-operated and autonomous to answer this question.)
  3. Above Robonaut’s right shoulder is a sphere-like device having a video camera within as well as gas jets for orientation of the camera, and a communication system allowing remote control of the camera’s view of the foosball game.  The automated space camera is another project of the IGOAL’s division.  The device is known as Mini-Aercam.  Carefully examine the large screen display of  the foosball field of play.  Is the pictured camera the source of the picture?  Study the foosball apparatus.  What is obviously out of place?  What might you do to correct the flaw?  Additionally, what items have been left out altogether?
  4. Finally, what has the IGOAL modeler designated as the “foosball” which Robonaut and astronaut are battling in their space-base version of the game?
  5. For extra credit, propose improvements which would upgrade the Earth-based foosball table for zero-g application. 


Grading of the paragraph is two-fold, a space technology grade based on answers to the six questions and a rhetoric grade based on articulation of the answers in prose which uses proper grammar.  The two grades will be averaged for an overall grade. 


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