If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
Researchers at NASA have been hard at work on a pilot AI system intended to help future exploration missions find evidence of life on other planets in our solar system. Machine learning algorithms will help exploration devices analyze soil samples on Mars and return the most relevant data to NASA. The pilot program is currently slated for a test run during the ExoMars mission that will see its launch in mid-2022. As IEEE Spectrum reports, the decision to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to aid the search for life on other planets was driven largely by Erice Lyness, the head of the Goddard Planetary Environments Lab at NASA. Lyness needed to come up with ways of automating aspects of geochemical analyses of samples taken in other parts of our solar system.
As NASA gears up to send humans to the moon and Mars it is also working on new advances to protect the space terrains from human germs. The American space agency released updates to its Planetary Protection Policies that provide new requirements for both astronaut and robotic missions. The added policies note that no biological matter is left on or around the moon, along with humans are to not contaminate any part of Mars with biological materials or return to Earth with germs from the Red Planet. The first woman and next man are set to head to the moon in 2024 and the first crewed mission to Mars is planned for the 2030s – and as early as 2035. The added policies note that no biological matter is left on or around the moon.
The UK's new Space Agency funding will be used to support drones that deliver coronavirus testing kits to a Scottish island. Skyports, the company behind the drones, started a two-week trial in May with NHS Highland, which serves a group of islands off the west coast of Scotland. The technology was able to cut delivery times between Oban and the Isle of Mull to around 15 minutes, instead of going via road and taking a 45-minute ferry crossing. An initial £2.6 million was made available by the UK Space Agency and European Space Agency (ESA) to find and support space-enabled technologies and services that can support the NHS response to coronavirus. Skyports along with two other initiatives have been awarded a share of £1.1 million in funding, while the rest is open to bids until the end of September.
NASA wants to make sure we don't unknowingly take organisms or other contaminants from Earth to other worlds (and vice-versa) when humans start exploring space beyond Low Earth Orbit. In a tweet, NASA Administrator Jim Brindestine has announced that the agency has updated its policies to reflect that commitment ahead of the upcoming Artemis missions. "We will protect scientific discoveries and the Earth's environment, while enabling dynamic human exploration and commercial innovation on the Moon and Mars," he wrote. While the space agency has been sending rovers and other unmanned spacecraft to the Moon and Mars, it's concerned about the biological contaminants associated with human presence. If we unknowingly take contaminants to other worlds when we start human exploration, we risk compromising the search for extraterrestrial life. At the same time, NASA wants to ensure its crewed missions don't cause adverse changes to Earth's environment with the introduction of contaminants from outer space.
The space projects have been dominated by government bodies until we saw the ambitious companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin diving into this diverse area. These two are the most prominent names in the private space community and are often put on a face-off due to the similarity of its founders in other areas as well. Owned by two of the most powerful businessmen of all time -- Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, they have been on the competition radar for their interest in the area of autonomous vehicles. Similarly, in the space segment, while the two companies might look quite similar in its attempts to explore space, the ideology and the approach of these companies vary quite significantly. But one thing cannot be denied that they both are developing large, reusable vehicles capable of carrying people and satellites across space. While we have often heard about SpaceX's missions and launches over the past few years, Blue Origin does not come out to be so ambitious in gaining traction.
The Sisense analytics platform is known for its augmented analytics capabilities and ease of use, and as it moves forward it will do so with a new leader in charge of its product development. Just over a year after its acquisition of Periscope Data, a purchase that added capabilities aimed at data scientists to the features geared toward business users Sisense was already know for, the New York-based vendor is focused on third-generation analytics in which AI and business intelligence embedded throughout the workflow will be prominent. Most recently, Sisense updated its analytics platform with new natural language query capabilities and introduced Knowledge Graph, a graph analytics engine the vendor developed that was trained on more than 650 billion past analytic events and informs the machine learning capabilities of the query tool. Now, to help shape its vision, Sisense has added Ashley Kramer as its first chief product officer. Kramer began her career as a software engineering manager at NASA.
Software has never played a more critical role in spaceflight. It has made it safer and more efficient, allowing a spacecraft to automatically adjust to changing conditions. According to Darrel Raines, a NASA engineer leading software development for the Orion deep space capsule, autonomy is particularly key for areas of "critical response time"--like the ascent of a rocket after liftoff, when a problem might require initiating an abort sequence in just a matter of seconds. Or in instances where the crew might be incapacitated for some reason. And increased autonomy is practically essential to making some forms of spaceflight even work.
Nasa has been forced to delay the launch of its newest and most ambitious Mars rover – leading to fears it might miss its launch window entirely. The Perseverance rover and its associated mission will cost about $3 billion. It will look for signs of Martian life in the past, as well as gathering materials from the surface that will one day be returned to Earth.
A few months ago, NASA unveiled its next-generation space suit that will be worn by astronauts when they return to the moon in 2024 as part of the agency's plan to establish a permanent human presence on the lunar surface. The Extravehicular Mobility Unit--or xEMU--is NASA's first major upgrade to its space suit in nearly 40 years and is designed to make life easier for astronauts who will spend a lot of time kicking up moon dust. It will allow them to bend and stretch in ways they couldn't before, easily don and doff the suit, swap out components for a better fit, and go months without making a repair. Instead, they're hidden away in the xEMU's portable life-support system, the astro backpack that turns the space suit from a bulky piece of fabric into a personal spacecraft. It handles the space suit's power, communications, oxygen supply, and temperature regulation so that astronauts can focus on important tasks like building launch pads out of pee concrete.
Cimon stands for Crew Interactive MObile companioN and is a reference to Simon Smith - the genius doctor known as the "flying brain" - from the science fiction story "Captain Future". Cimon is 3D printed and is just 32 centimetres in diameter - no bigger than a basketball and just 5kg in mass (0N in weight as space is a vacuum). Cimon was initially conceived by the DLR (German Space Agency) to help astronaut Alexander Gerst with science experiments in the Columbus Laboratory aboard the International Space Station. Developed by Airbus for the DLR, Cimon acts as a test bed to assess the potential feasibility of future intelligent robots in space - seeing whether they have the capability to simplify work life onboard the ISS. Cimon's'flying brain' was provided by IBM - its brain will be continuously updated over the air via IBM's Cloud, allowing Cimon to stay on the ISS for prolonged periods of time.