Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly revolutionizing processes, and it seems to have taken its capabilities beyond Earth’s boundaries in space exploration. For many years, scientists have been studying how humans can successfully know more about the unknown parts of our universe. However, entirely doing so became challenging because of many factors. The National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA), for instance, outlined many of these space technology-related hurdles, which fall under three categories:

  1. Expanding human presence in space
  2. Managing resources used in space
  3. Exploring space and scientific research

Note that while space exploration is growing exponentially, scientific discovery still falls behind when it comes to studying all space elements. There are, after all, more stars than there are grains of sand on Earth. Inspecting each one to see if they make a planet habitable requires technologies that can do just that. And that is where AI in space exploration comes in.

AI in Space Exploration Wins

Thanks to AI, space exploration is inching forward, particularly in the areas enumerated below.

Charting Unmarked Galaxies

Outer space is a limitless expanse that humans have yet to fully explore, and it may pose unknown and unpredictable threats that hamper space exploration efforts and endanger astronaut’s lives. Moving forward in space exploration means safely traversing outer space without dealing with cosmic radiation, massive meteors, space debris, or any other galactic event.

Government agencies currently have several programs in the pipeline that will use AI and machine learning (ML) to scour space for dangerous risks and predict cosmic events. AI and ML can start by going over uncharted galaxies, black holes, stars, supernovas, and other outer space elements to study their characteristics and determine if they behave as they do in our solar system.
Scientists can also use deep learning to imitate different galaxy formations that would allow them to classify galactic images returned by telescopes better.

Making Space Life Bearable

Astronauts spend a significant amount of time aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Aside from accomplishing many of their tasks, including verifying that ISS software work as they should, developing procedures for spacewalks, and enhancing robotic processes, they also have to fight off isolation and confinement. AI can help them unload some of their burdens through robots that help with some of these tasks.
One example of these helpers is the Crew Interactive MObile CompanioN (CIMON) robot. It is an AI-based assistant that helps astronauts with some of their tasks. Aside from doing menial tasks, such as documenting research efforts and monitoring inventory, CIMON is also equipped with a Watson Tone Analyzer that can detect and react to an astronaut’s emotions. Astronauts use the upgraded CIMON-2, which serves not only as an assistant but also a conversational partner to help them ward off negative emotions. That way, they can work better and further space exploration efforts. In January 2024, in fact, Swedish European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Marcus Wandt traveled to space with CIMON.

Furthering Spaceflight

Perhaps one of the most notable AI in space exploration contributions is improving the potential for spaceflight. AI is an established and useful technology that aids space discovery by identifying galaxies, and more recently, discovering two new super-Earths in our solar system.

Using ML, NASA scientists were able to train the AI using neural networks to know more about recorded signals. This discovery alone proves that AI can infuse space travel changes, especially how astronauts can get over illnesses associated with the absence of gravity. AI robots can help by determining behavioral patterns and providing medical help at the soonest possible time.

Furthermore, AI can also use facial and speech recognition during deep space missions to converse with scientists. Robots can carry out many tasks that may be otherwise dangerous or unsuitable for scientists.

AI in space exploration can also make self-driving spacecraft possible. Operators can use ML algorithms to guide these vehicles in outer space to gather data.

One such endeavor is being carried out by Stanford University. The institution’s aerospace engineers are combining the mathematics of trajectory optimization with the power of generative AI to make autonomous space flight a reality. Should they succeed, they will make spacecraft docking more accurate and safe for astronauts.

While AI in space exploration offers tons of benefits, its full implementation depends on how much trust space scientists can place on robots. For now, we still have a long journey ahead before we can even create autonomous systems for scientists’ use. But our little steps are already providing us big wins in space discovery.

AI in Space Exploration Is a Huge Help to Astronauts.
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