In recent times, artificial intelligence has waived so that we can solve problems more quickly than conventional computing will ever permit. Google’s artificial intelligence subsidiary DeepMind has recently created AlphaFold2, for instance, to solve the problem of protein folding. It’s a mystery that scientists have been puzzled for 50 years.

AI advances have helped us, and are not limited to applications on this planet, to move on in all types of disciplines. Here are just a couple of ways artificial intelligence can enable us to move deeper into space, from developing missions to clearing the Earth’s junk orbit.

Astronaut Assistants

Do you recall Tars and Case, the Interstellar film’s assistant robots? Although these robots are not yet available for actual space flights, researchers work towards some kind of this, building intelligent helpers to support astronauts. These AI assistants may be extremely useful for space exploration even though they don’t look as fantastic as it is in the movies.

A newly developed virtual wizard could detect hazards from longer space missions, including changes to the atmosphere of a spacecraft – including such increased carbon dioxide – or a sensor defect that might potentially cause harm. The crew will then be warned of inspection recommendations.

In December 2019, an AI assistant named Cimon flew to an ISS where he was being checked for three years. Cimon can eventually be used to relieve tension by astronauts in carrying out the tasks they request. NASA also develops an astronaut friend, known as Robonaut, on the ISS, who works with or is taking on tasks too dangerous for the astronauts.

Mission Planning and Design

Planning a Mars mission is not even an easy job, although it can be simpler with artificial intelligence. Traditionally, new space missions depend on previous studies of science. This information can, though, sometimes not be completely available or restricted.

This implies that the flow of technical knowledge is limited by who could really access and share it with other engineers. And what if anybody with authority had access to all knowledge from almost all past space missions in a few clicks. One day, a smarter framework could be installed to support the early planning and design of new space missions – close to Wikipedia but using artificial intelligence that answers complicated requests with accurate and relevant data.

Research teams are working on the concept of an assistant design technician to reduce the time it takes to start the task that otherwise requires several hours of human labor. “Daphne” is another smart example of an Earth-watching device design assistant. In satellite design teams, Daphne is being used by system engineers. It facilitates the work by providing access to information and input, and responses to specific queries.

Processing of Satellite Data 

Satellites of earth observation produce huge quantities of data. This is obtained over a wide duration by ground stations in chunks and must be arranged together before analysis. While some crowdsourcing projects have also been carried out on small scales to conduct simple satellite imagery analysis, artificial intelligence will go to our rescue for comprehensive analysis of satellite data.

AI was very successful in smart processing also for the sheer volume of data collected. It was used to measure urban heat storage and also to combine weather data with satellite imagery to calculate wind speed. Among several other applications, AI also contributed to the calculation of solar radiation utilizing geostationary satellite data.

AI for data acquisition could also be used for the satellites themself. In recent studies, researchers analyzed different AI techniques for just a remote satellite health monitoring system. This can be used to analyze satellite data to identify issues, forecast the output of satellite wellbeing & provide a visualization of informed decision-making.

Space Debris

Anyone who is facing space debris is among the greatest obstacles in the 21st century. There are almost 34000 objects larger than 10cm, as per ESA, that represent significant threats to existing space infrastructure. Some creative approaches are available to address the threat, such as developing satellites to reintegrate the earth’s environment if they have been deployed in the region of low Earth’s orbit that fully disrupts them.

Another way is to avoid potential space collisions, thereby preventing any debris from being created. Researchers have recently created a system for designing collision avoidance maneuvers using ML techniques.

Another new method would be to use Earth’s huge computer power to train ML models, move them on-orbit or even on the way to spacecraft, and use them for different decision-making on board. One approach to ensure the safety of space flights has also been recently suggested by the use of already trained spacecraft networks. This makes satellite architecture more flexible while minimizing the risk of orbit collision.

Navigation Systems

On Earth, we were using instruments like Google Maps that use GPS and other systems of navigation. However, as of now, there really is no such scheme for other alien bodies.

We have really no satellite navigation around Mars or Moon, but we can take millions of images from observational satellites like the Lunar Recognition Orbiter. An intelligent navigation system using AI was developed by a team of NASA researchers in 2018, in partnership with Intel, to explore planets. The model was trained by the million photographs available from different missions as well as a virtual Moon map was developed.

Final Words

We will also continue to pursue ambitious missions in the cosmos to accommodate our natural curiosity and enhance the lives of mankind on Earth. In our efforts, artificial intelligence will allow us to explore both on Earth and in space. AI will change the future of space research and planning. It will enhance the working process and modify the space systems to its best. Therefore we can conclude that Artificial Intelligence is of great importance for space exploration and will change its face of working.