Space exploration has been the ultimate guiding force that drives innovation into technological advances to explore the unknown into outer space. Space exploration is a vast topic and human intelligence needs artificial intelligence to be able to comprehend the details of space.
The new generation spacecraft use AI to be more independent, self-sufficient, and autonomous. Humans cannot spend a lot of time in space. AI can go beyond limits to identify findings and send information back to earth from space. AI is revolutionizing the space industry by making previously arduous and impossible tasks instantaneous and highly efficient. Few of the applications of artificial intelligence in space exploration are listed below:
1-Decrypting insightful information from large data sets:
Space exploration gives rise to large amounts of data that can’t be analyzed through human intelligence. That’s where AI applications come into play. Through analyzing and deriving meaning to data, AI can change the trajectory of space exploration.
The data which we receive from the space is the form of images. The challenge is to decode those images and extract the needed information. Machine learning can be used as a solution for the following things-
- Solar storm damage detection
- Atmosphere measurement
- Finding weather of a given planet
- Resource discovery in the space
- Identify suitable planet landing sites
2- Rovers to collect samples:
Rovers are the AI-powered planetary surface exploration device that could move over the surface of celestial bodies to capture images and collect samples.
For example, NASA’s Curiosity rover can move on its own while avoiding obstacles on the way and determining the best route to travel.
3- Guiding safe landing:
Machine learning also plays a significant role in the successful landing of rockets. It can identify the best way to land the rocket by facilitating route prediction.
Deep learning, a subset of AI, can be applied in automatic landing, intelligent decision making, and fully automated systems.
4- Exoplanet discoveries:
AI can optimize planetary tracking systems, enable smart data transmission, and remove the risk of human error by using predictive maintenance.
In 2017, NASA incorporated with Google to develop an AI algorithm to analyze data from Kepler’s mission. The program quickly found two new exoplanets that human researchers had missed. The newly discovered Kepler90I is one of the feats achieved by artificial intelligence. The planet was discovered through NASA’s Kepler space telescope by using machine learning.
The same year, NASA finished an AI program that creates 3-D models for asteroids accurately, measuring their sizes, shapes, and spin rates. This information is important to NASA’s efforts to identify and deflect potentially hazardous asteroids. The algorithm can provide data about an asteroid in as little as four days, work that would take several months for astronomers.
5-Analyse real-time data efficiently:
Every satellite captures millions of images, generating valuable data around the world for weather and climate studies, urban planning, and many other uses. Earlier humans were responsible for scanning the data, image by image, taking countless hours. People had to manage satellites to prevent collisions.
Now, AI- based systems are capable of analyzing the real-time data accurately 24/7 and revealing any unexpected patterns. AI algorithms can track satellites and automatically make adjustments to avoid collisions with celestial bodies.
6- AI-Assistants for Astronauts:
AI has enhanced computing and can improve the performance of robots. The German Aerospace Centre along with AIRBUS and IBM has developed CIMON, an AI-based assistant for astronauts that have been sent to the ISS. It can fly around and answer astronaut’s questions. The recent version CIMON 2 can assess and react to astronaut’s emotions.
As technology advances, we can have highly advanced AI assistants similar to C3PO and R2D2 from the movie Star Wars, supporting astronauts both physically and mentally.
7- Global navigation or GNSS:
AI can assist in global navigation. AI and machine learning process the data collected by GNSS to detect catastrophic events like Tsunami and other disaster situations in real-time. It can study the parameters like temperature, gases and other signals that can define immediate danger.
How does the future look?
Scientists are actually trying to figure out if AI can be used to identify or find asteroids or even discover life on nearby planets. The space agencies across the globe have realized the importance and relevance of artificial intelligence in space exploration. What was not possible a few years back, now it is very much within our reach because we have the support of artificial intelligence. In the future, AI-enhanced robots may replace astronauts. It will save a lot of money, solving many issues, and eliminate the risks of human life loss during an accident. AI is the key to finding the answers to the unknown.