Research Project

CoStar/NeBula Science Communication

Motivation/Research Problem

The Co-Star/NeBula team at JPL was one of the winning groups for the DARPA Subterranean challenge. The Art and Design team at ARCS will assist the Co-Star team in further developing science communication touchpoints to explain the AI concepts of their NeBula system. The NeBula software system is under development by CoStar to address stochasticity and uncertainty in various elements of missions, including sensing, environment, motion, system health, communication, among others. NeBula has been implemented on multiple heterogeneous robotic platforms (wheeled, legged, tracked and flying vehicles). CSUN has an opportunity to engage in further exploration and research with these robotic platforms to conduct experiments on the CSUN campus.

The specific deliverables for the Art and Design team thus far has been illustration and visualization of how the NeBula system works with a network of UAV exploring caves on the Moon or Mars. We have also been engaged in redesigning Co-Star’s website to create a more user-friendly layout that communicates to non-science audiences. Finally, we are in development of a video that demonstrates a time based narrative to further explain how NeBula systems work in a cave exploration scenario.

This team will continue to support science communication to further enhance the reputation and visibility of the Co-Star/NeBula project.

Research Team


  • Ali-akbar Agha-mohammadi, JPL


  • Joe Bautista – ARCS Associate Director

Student Team

  • Erica Bettencourt
  • Andila Wijekulasuriya
Alignment, Engagement and Contributions to the priorities of NASA’s Mission Directorates
  • This project aligns with NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate to solve challenges that exist in Human Exploration on other planets.
  • This system will allow for autonomous robot exploration to provide necessary data and information without the risk of human life.
Research Questions and Research Objectives
  • How can we use communication strategy and design to further enhance, educate, and promote the mission and value of the CoStar/NeBula team.
Research Methods

Brand/Creative Strategy

  • Defining Target Audiences
  • Qualitative and Quantitative feedback
  • Communication Data Analytics

User Experience Design

  • Usability Testing Research
  • Additional research to explain why existing designs are not effective
    Colors, Fonts, spacing, User concerns and impediments
    Marketing tactics and feedback
Research Deliverables (Publications, Presentations and other Products)
The anticipated deliverables are interactive touchpoints such as a highly engaging and informative website and marketing/PR touchpoints such as social media, new releases. We intend to develop a series of videos for explaining the science to various audiences. We hope to prepare a case study of the project and possibly present at a design conference.
Research Timeline
June – August 2020—

  • Research, Learn, Review needs analysis. Define target audience

August 2020—

  • December 2020: Design and develop interactive touchpoints. Validate effectiveness with user testing.

January 2021—

  • March 2021: Design and Develop video

April 2021—

  • June 2021: Publish news articles, launch Social Media

Impact of Project Partnership with NASA:

The CoStar/NeBula science communication project has been effective and well received by the JPL team which is a large group of not only JPL scientists, but a collaboration by other institutions such as MIT, CalTEch, KAIST, and LTU. So CSUN and our team have some visibility with these major schools. The student team have been able to collaborate directly with JPL team members and attend weekly meetings to learn and engage.