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How AI is Helping to Make Space Travel More Affordable?

405 Views | 1 min | Published On: August 23, 2023 Last Updated: December 27, 2023
Artificial intelligence in Space

In quest to uncover the universe’s mysteries, Artificial intelligence (AI) serves as a revolutionizing tool for space exploration. Without technology going into space would still be a dream. However, Artificial intelligence in space offers a promising future in exploring the vast cosmos.

The space robotics market is on the rise, projected to reach a value of USD 465 billion by 2030, with an annual growth rate of about 9%. This growth is driven by several key factors, such as technology, autonomous systems in space, and space programs. One of the exciting developments is the use of cutting-edge technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) in the industry. 

In this blog, we’ll dive deep into the applications of AI in the space industry and the challenges it faces. But first, let’s uncover what AI and ML are and how they’re significantly impacting space exploration.

What is AI and How Does it Impact Space Exploration?

AI, or Artificial Intelligence, refers to the development of computer systems that can perform tasks typically requiring human intelligence. ML, short for Machine Learning, is a subset of AI where computers learn from data to improve their performance over time.

Now, how do AI and ML impact space exploration? They have transformed how we explore and understand the universe. These technologies help spacecraft navigate through complex terrains, analyze vast amounts of space data, and even predict equipment failures in real time. Their ability to process data quickly and accurately has opened new frontiers in space research. 

The fascinating moments in the field of space exploration and astronomy:

  • First Image of a Black Hole: In April 2019, scientists achieved a monumental feat by capturing the first-ever image of a black hole. 
  • The Detection of Gravitational Waves: In 2015, scientists made an astonishing discovery by detecting gravitational waves for the first time. This groundbreaking event was confirmed by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).
  • The Deepest and Sharpest Infrared Image of the Universe: NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope underscores the significance of advanced space technology.

While AI and ML have undeniably contributed to remarkable achievements in space missions, it’s essential to recognize that their full potential in space exploration is yet to be fully realized. 

However, this new height can be achieved with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, a pioneer in space innovation, breaking free from tradition by embracing Artificial intelligence in space missions. SpaceX’s boldness extends beyond tech—it’s the thrill of Reverse Rocket Landings and sending a Tesla into outer space, painting the cosmos with imagination. This daring spirit sets SpaceX apart in the celestial theater.

What Are AI’s Current Roles in Space Exploration

AI has become an integrated part of reshaping the way we approach space exploration. It’s transforming the space industry through various applications. Let’s find out:

  • Autonomous Navigation

AI automation in space travel empowers spacecraft to autonomously chart their course, approach, and dock with other objects in space. It significantly minimizes the need for human intervention and reduces mission risks. 

For instance, NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity employs Artificial Intelligence algorithms to traverse the Martian terrain, avoiding obstacles and selecting routes to its scientific targets. This autonomy reduces the chances of mission failure and opens new doors to planetary exploration.

  • Data Analysis

AI, often assisted by Machine Learning (ML), adeptly processes immense datasets from satellites, telescopes, and sensors. A notable example is NASA’s DAPHNE system, which revolutionizes data transmission. By connecting to the nearest cloud backbone, DAPHNE taps into cost-effective global infrastructure networks, slashing communication expenses.

It employs general-purpose hardware to collect satellite mission data, prioritizing and forwarding it to the cloud counterpart for comprehensive processing. This innovation streamlines data analysis in space missions.

  • Satellite Operations 

AI takes charge of managing satellite constellations, ensuring their optimal functioning. This includes enhancing communication, scheduling maintenance tasks, and even mitigating collision risks in crowded orbital regions. 

In Earth’s context, AI aids in forecasting weather patterns and analyzing space-related images captured by satellites, contributing to our understanding of our planet and the cosmos beyond. 

  • Space Flight 

AI plays a key role in automating spacecraft operations during take-off and landing. It manages engine functions and deploys landing gear, optimizing fuel use. SpaceX employed an AI autopilot system for Falcon 9, enabling autonomous tasks like docking with the ISS for NASA cargo deliveries. 

Also, Al in satellite deployment continuously monitors satellite positions to prevent collisions with space debris and make real-time adjustments when needed. 

  • Exoplanet Discovery

Artificial Intelligence in space exploration helps identify exoplanets by analyzing telescope data for habitable conditions.

AstroNet K2, a Convolutional Neural Network (CNN), has been a game-changer in exoplanet discovery. Trained with remarkable accuracy, up to 98%, using data from the Kepler Telescope, this AI system has aided NASA in identifying previously unknown exoplanets, such as Kepler 80g and Kepler 90i.

  • Decision-Making 

AI plays a pivotal role in decision-making to mitigate risks and enhance mission success. It evaluates real-time data, monitors spacecraft functionality, and autonomously adjusts parameters. By swiftly identifying and responding to anomalies or potential issues, AI helps prevent costly errors and ensures the safety of both missions and valuable investments in space exploration.

Some Potential Applications of AI in the Space Industry

The potential applications of Artificial Intelligence in space are vast and hold promise for advancing space exploration and technology. Here are some potential applications:

applications of Artificial Intelligence in space
  • New Space Technologies Development 

AI holds the key to creating exciting new space technologies. These innovations can enable us to explore space more extensively and create fresh methods for scouting beyond Earth. By harnessing AI, we can design advanced spacecraft, like self-navigating probes and smart satellites, making our missions safer and more efficient. 

  • Crew Assistance 

Artificial Intelligence in space travel isn’t just about technology; it’s also about taking care of the humans venturing beyond our planet. AI-powered virtual assistants can play a crucial role here. These digital partners can assist astronauts with daily tasks, provide navigation guidance, and effective solutions in emergencies.

  •  Space GPS 

NASA’s Frontier Development Lab (FDL) stands as a pioneering AI research accelerator dedicated to applying AI technologies to solve complex problems in space exploration, ultimately benefiting humanity as a whole.  Its ambitious goal is the creation of a GPS, simplifying planetary exploration, including places like Titan and Mars. 

  • Healthcare Facility on Space Mission

In future deep space missions, instant communication with Earth for health issues will be challenging. AI in healthcare will be able to monitor crew health detect anomalies, and provide real-time medical insights, ensuring astronaut well-being when Earth is distant. In the harsh space environment, AI’s role in healthcare is paramount.

  • Extraterrestrial Life Search 

The question of whether life exists beyond Earth has captivated human curiosity for ages. Are we alone in the universe? To help us find answers, AI steps in as a cosmic detective. AI can analyze data from space telescopes and rovers to identify potential signs of extraterrestrial life. With the help of Artificial Intelligence in space missions scientists can assert better outcomes. 

Also Read: AI in Healthcare: Benefits, Applications, and Cases

What Are the Challenges and Ethical Considerations of AI in the Space Industry?

Artificial Intelligence in the space industry brings transformative potentials but also poses several challenges and ethical considerations to tackle for a bright future. Let’s explore them one by one: 

Challenges and Ethical Considerations of AI in the Space Industry
  • Data Security

Space research often involves proprietary technology and data. Protecting sensitive space data from cyberattacks or unauthorized access is crucial to prevent mission compromise. 

  • Job Displacement 

While AI brings efficiency and capabilities to space missions, it can potentially reduce the demand for human inputs in certain roles.  Striking a balance between humans and artificial intelligence in space exploration is essential to maximize efficiency while ensuring the continuous involvement of human expertise and decision-making.

  • Bias and Fairness

AI algorithms may inherit biases from training data, potentially leading to unfair treatment in astronaut selection or mission decisions. This challenge needs to be addressed with the setup of a proper governing body to promote fairness. 

  • Decision Transparency 

During critical missions, AI-driven decisions must be explainable to human operators. This transparency ensures that astronauts and mission controllers can trust AI systems and make informed choices when necessary, ultimately contributing to mission success and safety in the complex and unforgiving environment of space.

  • International Cooperation

The integration of AI into space exploration necessitates a high degree of international cooperation and consensus on shared ethical principles and regulations. As space missions become increasingly complex and AI-driven, nations around the world must collaborate to define standards and guidelines for the responsible use of AI in space.

Remarkable Projects Driving AI Automation in Space Industry

Artificial Intelligence in space is witnessing remarkable projects that push the boundaries of what’s possible in space exploration:

  • ISRO’s Chandrayaan-3 

Chandrayaan-3’s mission is anchored in the significance of Artificial Intelligence (AI). At its heart are the lander Vikram and the rover Pragyan, where AI takes center stage. The rover relies on AI to understand and navigate the intricate lunar landscape, examine the soil, recognize obstacles, and transmit invaluable data to Earth. Operating during a lunar day, Pragyan’s AI-driven capabilities have the potential to expand our insights into the Moon’s surface, atmosphere, and the presence of water. This mission underscores AI’s pivotal role in advancing lunar exploration.

  • NASA’s AI Exploration Initiative

Inaugurated in 2020, the AI CoE (Center of Excellence) initiative represents NASA’s commitment to harnessing the power of artificial intelligence in space exploration. The AI CoE serves as a hub for advancing AI technologies and integrating them into various aspects of NASA’s missions.

Its objectives include developing AI systems for spacecraft autonomy, enhancing data analysis capabilities, and improving mission planning and execution. 

  • Crew Interactive Mobile Companion (CIMON) 

Developed by Airbus in collaboration with IBM, CIMON made its debut on the International Space Station (ISS) in 2018.

CIMON is essentially a spherical robot equipped with artificial intelligence, specifically IBM’s Watson AI technology. It’s designed to assist astronauts in their daily tasks, answer questions, and provide companionship during their time aboard the ISS. 

  • Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES)

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems program (ARTES) includes initiatives focused on artificial intelligence in space exploration. ARTES aims to grip AI’s potential to enhance satellite communications, navigation, Earth observation, and space exploration. By integrating AI technologies, ESA seeks to advance mission capabilities, improve data analysis, and drive innovation across various facets of space technology.

Closing Remark

Armstrong’s famous quote, “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind,” resonates as a testament to human curiosity and drive to venture into the unknown, where the mysteries of outer space continue to beckon us forward.

As we reach new heights in the cosmos, we also witness AI’s transformative impact on other sectors like healthcare, e-commerce,  finance, and more. 

This revolutionary technology is weaving a tapestry of possibilities, and app development company like Apptunix stand ready to help you navigate this era of innovation. Together, we’re on the brink of an exciting future where AI continues to shape and enrich our lives in ways we’ve only begun to imagine.

Our AI expertise spans from developing intelligent chatbots and virtual assistants for enhanced customer engagement to creating machine learning models for predictive analytics and data-driven decision-making. Whether it’s automating processes, optimizing business operations, or enhancing user experiences, Apptunix’s AI services empower businesses to thrive in the age of AI-driven innovation.

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