“I know someone who is going into space,” you might say this year. This would be on the condition that AI partners are taken into account. Alexa will be sent to NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which will be launched in early 2022 as part of the Artemis I lunar mission.
The Orion spacecraft, which will orbit the moon later this year, will not carry people, but it will carry video conferencing software Amazon Alexa and Cisco WebEx. These two pieces of software are part of Callisto, a human-machine interface that will replace the mission control panel aboard the Orion spacecraft.
Aaron Rubenson, vice president of Amazon Alexa, said, “The Star Trek computer was part of the original Alexaconcept. To create a type of ambient intelligence that is useful when you need it and then disappears. As a result, this is an excellent match with some of the ways we looked at expanding this technology.”
While Artemis I has no crew, Lockheed Martin, which is developing NASA’s Orion spacecraft and plans to integrate Alexa and Webex on board, plans to test the virtual crewed gadgets at Johnson Space Center in Houston. The ground crew will transmit statements via NASA’s deep space network, a worldwide array of large radio antennas used for communications during interplanetary travel.
Alexa will need a reliable network that offers Wi-Fi capabilities because it won’t have regular Internet access in space. The spoken words will be played through the speaker to simulate a real astronaut on board, and Alexa will respond accordingly.
This is the same as asking, “Alex, play classical music,” and then Debussy blesses your ears. Except for the astronauts asking Alex questions such as “How fast is the spaceship going?” and “How far are we from the moon?”
According to the mission summary, “Artemis I will lay the foundation for human exploration of deep space and demonstrate our dedication and competence in extending human existence to the Moon and beyond until the firstcrewed flight to Artemis II.” Alexa is currently only approved for the unmanned spacecraft Artemis I. Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon 52 years ago, and NASA plans to place the first woman and first colored face on the lunar surface in future Artemis missions.
Amazon, Cisco, and Lockheed Martin are trying to improve communications and video to make spaceships appear more controllable and more like a home, in parallel with the agency’s push towards the next phase of space exploration.
The Artemis I Orion spacecraft is designed to safely orbit the moon as proof of concept for Artemis II and subsequent missions. The Space Launch System rocket is also part of the mission, and it will launch 13 tiny satellites for scientific reasons that could one day aid deep space exploration.