(Gear Bits) So you think your 400 MHz wireless GPS-enabled PDA is pretty cutting-edge kit, eh? Well, it’s not even close. NASA is working on the PSA, or Personal Satellite Assistant, the next great thing in mobile electronics…at least for astronauts. NASA’s Ames Research Center is collaborating with other institutions and companies to develop a semi-autonomous astronaut’s assistant. The PSA would float (due to micro-gravity) and propel itself around inside the space station using small air fans.

About the size of a cantelope, the PSA would record the astronaut’s activities by streaming A/V to the space station’s central computer via wireless LAN. It would also facilitate communication and perform routine minor tasks for the astronaut. The PSA would also have an array of sensors, so the astronaut could verbally instruct it to “go check the temperature in B module,” and, after venturing there on its own, it would report back with the requested information.

This overview at Ames provides some still drawings and some concept movies. This page provides a lot more detail into how the specifics of the research effort are progressing. Finally, this link is to a quasi-academic research paper outlining the conceptual and theoretic foundation of the PSA.

Based on the photos and movies, it kind of reminds me of the training droids in the original Star Wars (the small hovering orbs Luke is using to practice using The Force). This just makes me want to be an astronaut just that much more — they have all the best toys!