What is Artificial Intelligence?
Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the ability of machines to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence, such as learning, problem-solving, decision-making, and natural language processing. AI has become increasingly important for space technology in recent years due to its potential to enhance the efficiency, safety, and accuracy of space missions. With AI, spacecraft can be designed to make autonomous decisions, analyze complex data sets, and navigate through space with greater precision, making it an indispensable tool for space exploration and research.
AI Applications for Space Technology
Here are some ways in which AI is currently used, and can be used, to advance space technology:
Autonomous Navigation: AI algorithms are currently used to enable spacecraft to autonomously navigate through space, making it easier for them to locate, travel to, and land on their destinations.
NASA Terrain-Relative Navigation
NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, which included the Perseverance rover, used an AI-powered system called Terrain-Relative Navigation (TRN) to safely land on the planet.
Predictive Maintenance: Spacecraft require regular maintenance to ensure their proper functioning, and AI can be used to predict when maintenance is required. This can help reduce the risk of equipment failure and minimize the need for unscheduled maintenance.
Resource Management: Spacecraft have limited resources, such as power and fuel. AI algorithms can be used to optimize the use of these resources, making space missions more efficient and reducing costs.
Robotic Exploration: AI is currently used to control robotic spacecraft and rovers, allowing them to operate autonomously on the surface of other planets. This can reduce the need for human intervention, making space exploration safer and more efficient. NASA Mars rovers use AI for autonomous navigation while on the surface of Mars.
Space Weather Prediction: AI can be used to predict space weather events such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections. This information can help spacecraft operators take preventive measures to protect their equipment and astronauts.
Astronaut Assistance: AI can be used to assist astronauts with tasks such as navigation, maintenance, medical advice, and emergency response.
Callisto Technology Demo
NASA has partnered with Amazon to explore the use of Amazon Alexa as part of its Artemis program, which aims to return humans to the Moon and establish a sustainable presence there. The goal of this collaboration is to develop voice-activated technologies that can help astronauts communicate with Earth and perform tasks more efficiently during their missions.
Amazon Alexa was deployed on the Artemis I Orion space capsule as part of Project Callisto.
Image and Data Analysis: AI is used to analyze images and data collected by satellites and other spacecraft. This helps scientists identify patterns, track changes over time, and make predictions about future events. NASA is using AI to process data from the Kepler Mission to identify exoplanets. NASA is also using AI to analyze data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to identify fresh craters on Mars.
Space Debris Tracking: AI is used to track and predict the movement of space debris. This is important for ensuring the safety of spacecraft and astronauts in orbit.
Astronaut Health Monitoring: AI can be used to monitor the health of astronauts in space. This includes tracking vital signs, detecting illnesses, and predicting health risks. This is an area of ongoing research by NASA.
Planetary Exploration: AI is used to plan and execute missions to other planets.
Spacecraft Design: AI assisted design is used to design spacecraft and spacecraft components. NASA is currently using this technology to design components for the EXCITE space telescope.
Looking to the Future
From designing space vehicles to monitoring and analyzing large amounts of data, AI has the potential to revolutionize the space industry and unlock new frontiers in our understanding of the universe.
The use of AI in the space industry is expected to grow in the future.