Astronaut Scott Kelly changed things up on his Twitter over the weekend. Instead of breathtaking images of Earth, he took a picture of himself wearing Microsoft HoloLens.

Even though the International Space Station is 249 miles above the Earth, they still get cool tech gadgets before us.

Why does Scott Kelly have a Microsoft HoloLens?

Sidekick Project

Scott Kelly and other ISS crew members are participating in a project called Sidekick.

Getting the HoloLens up there proved to be a little more challenging than everyone thought. The first pair went up during SpaceX’s seventh commercial resupply mission last summer. That mission ended in disaster when the rocket exploded shortly after launch. The pair of HoloLens finally reached the ISS in December from an Orbital ATK supply mission.

Sam Scimemi, director of the ISS program at NASA, explains why the space agency is interested in HoloLens and other similar technology.

“HoloLens and other virtual and mixed reality devices are cutting edge technologies that could help drive future exploration and provide new capabilities to the men and women conducting critical science on the International Space Station,” says Scimemi. “This new technology could also empower future explorers requiring greater autonomy on the journey to Mars.”

How? Astronauts are trying out two different modes with Sidekick. One is called ‘Remote Expert Mode.’ And it is what it sounds like. Using Skype, a ground operator can assist the crewmember wearing the headset. This includes drawing annotations when performing repairs or experiments. One of Microsoft’s first videos of HoloLens shows us how this could work.

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HoloLens instructions

Ok, that’s not rocket science – but you get the idea.

The second mode is called ‘Procedure Mode.’ This puts animated holographic illustrations on objects or surfaces crewmembers are working with. NASA points out how useful this could be on deep-space missions where communications would lag.

You can imagine how handy this tech would be on any kind of mission. Everything from medical information and procedures to fixing any issues that may arise on a long-term mission. It’s an interesting concept and one that could change how astronomers work in low-Earth orbit and beyond.

Here’s a cool video of NASA and Microsoft engineers testing HoloLens during a parabolic flight last summer.

Project Sidekick is still in the early stages. But, NASA is always on the lookout for how new technology can make the lives of their astronauts easier. HoloLens could potentially bring a wealth of information right into an astronaut’s field of view. And with it, improving the efficiency of astronauts.

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