NASA is developing an artificially intelligent system that could navigate the Moon.
The project could help humans navigate in space and on other planets, and it would also advance artificial intelligence programs that scientists hope will one day become self-aware.
The Artemis initiative aims to attract astronauts from around the world and send them on a path called “Moon Homestay;” where people would live on the moon and explore its vast resources, while NASA monitors their movements. Part of the program is to develop an automated system that uses AI to navigate astronauts safely across the lunar surface.
NASA is teaching an artificial intelligence how to navigate on the Moon. NASA has been developing and investing in AI for years, but its latest project focuses specifically on mapping and navigation systems for future lunar explorers.
NASA is teaching an artificially intelligent system to navigate its way around the Moon using features across its surface such as ridges, craters and boulders. An engineer at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California downloaded data from an instrument named LOLA (Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter), which “measures slopes, lunar surface roughness, and generates high resolution topographic maps of the Moon,” according to the space agency.
The NASA engineer is teaching an artificially intelligent system to navigate its way around the Moon using features across the lunar surface such as ridges, craters, and boulders. In order to make this task successful, Yew used data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been orbiting the Moon since 2009. The orbiter is equipped with an instrument called LOLA, or Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, which “measures slopes, lunar surface roughness, and generates high resolution topographic maps of the Moon.”
NASA is working with AI researchers to train computers to map the lunar surface. Using the data collected by LOLA, Yew is training the AI on how to “recreate features on the lunar horizon as they would appear to an explorer on the lunar surface,” NASA wrote in a statement. The digital panoramas created by the machine would then be used to match the features identified in images captured by astronauts or rovers, thereby identifying certain locations on the Moon.
NASA is testing out different ways to provide astronauts with navigation on the Moon. Earlier this year, the space agency experimented with a lunar backpack that would provide astronauts with a high-resolution 3D map of their surrounding area. The goal was to give them a more realistic and accurate view of where they were going or coming from.
These are the kinds of navigational challenges faced by NASA scientists, who want their future astronauts to be smart enough to navigate efficiently on the moon. The agency has been working with the Aerospace Corporation to develop a next-generation system called LunaNet. In addition to autonomous flight, the system would also contain Internet connectivity for communication between astronauts and ground stations.