Space exploration is perhaps the most challenging endeavour faced by mankind, not least because the technology and resources we use to explore it are operated at such huge distances from Earth.
As AI technology evolves it’s becoming apparent that it can make a strong contribution to the space programme, with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory predicting that future space probes will be governed by built-in AI rather than humans on Earth.
As probes move beyond communications range, they can continue their mission without human intervention, perhaps deciding when to return to Earth with the knowledge gathered. AI may need to decide what to document and what to ignore. Traveling to unknown areas of space will present new challenges requiring on the spot decisions. Distance will also translate into huge timescales beyond human lifespans, where only AI can provide the necessary long-term decision-making support.
AI is already proven in space, NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers, launched in 2003, use AI called Autonav to explore the Mars landscape. The Mars Curiosity Rover uses Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science (AEGIS) to decide what and where to visit or document on Mars, on the basis of what seems most interesting.This reduces lost time and accelerates the pace of exploration.
Read more about predictions for AI in future space travel.