Ever thought of hitting Alexa up with the question: Alexa, when are we arriving at the moon? That’s the question that Alexa might answer soon, at least for itself.
Amazon’s AI-driven voice assistant is all set to be on a moon-bound spaceship later this year when a radiation-hardened console would ride along in NASA’s Orion deep-space capsule for the Artemis 1 round-the-moon mission.
For the test flight, there aren't going to be any humans aboard which will mark the launch of NASA's heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket. Alexa's voice and Echo's pulsing blue ring will be interacting with operators at Houston's Mission Control for a technology demonstration created by Lockheed Martin, Amazon, and Cisco.
The project is called Callisto (a name that is traditionally associated with a mythological nymph who was a follower of the Greek goddess Artemis).
According to Lisa Callahan, the vice president of Lockheed Martin, “Callisto will demonstrate a first-of-its-kind technology that could be used in the future to enable astronauts to be more self-reliant as they explore deep space.”
Alexa is finally getting off this rock after a little more than seven years of its debut.
Rubenson elaborated that his team has envisioned a future wherein astronauts will be able to turn to an onboard AI for access to information for assistance with their core responsibilities and of a future where the astronauts will be able to make their jobs simpler, and more efficient with aid from some form of companionship.
Amazon, under the guidance of Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor for the Orion spacecraft, tweaked the Echo hardware to be more resilient to radiation in the space environment and also tweaked Alexa software to be more attuned with voice commands in a capsule that can noisier than the ambiance of a typical living room.
Callisto also comes with a tablet-based version of Cisco’s Webex video conferencing system that has been built-in with a whiteboarding feature that could come in handy for collaboration between Orion’s future crews and ground controllers.
The in-space version of Alexa takes advantage of the platform’s ability to support voice interactions even if the spacecraft is out of communication with the ground. Local voice control means crews in lunar orbit won’t always have to deal with the seconds-long communication gaps that Apollo astronauts experienced.
Rubenson unveiled that there are all the sorts of challenges that their team has been working through to make this demonstration possible. He also added that from a capacity standpoint, their team has also added thousands of new interactions that Alexa can process that are relevant to space and the mission.
It is being anticipated that Artemis 1 will be launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in March-April. Callisto will be installed at the front of the Orion crew cabin.
The team recently conducted an end-to-end communications test to do away with the bugs. A team of virtual astronauts will also test Callisto beyond the lunar orbit goals such as for the streaming of 720p HD video, sharing a whiteboard, getting readings on spacecraft telemetry, and controlling the cabin lights.
Rubenson explained that the in-space version of Alexa will be capable of checking its earthly data banks for the latest news or sports scores. He stressed the importance of this feature and reiterated that this will help astronauts combat isolation that happens to be an indispensable part of the multi-week space missions. Alexa will help integrate a bit of the daily routine into the spacecraft as well.
Cisco is taking care of the security aspects to ensure that they comply with NASA’s standards.
Jeetu Patel, Cisco’s executive vice president and general manager of security and collaboration said, "Making sure there's a level of adherence to security and privacy, while ensuring that the connectivity side is reliable in space, is a non-trivial task."
Lockheed Martin, NASA, and Cisco have split the cost of development of the project and have compensated NASA for the space agency’s costs after NASA gave a go-ahead for the project.
The infographic traces the procedure for virtual crew interactions with Callisto
As of now, there’re no commitments from NASA to include Callisto on the crew flights it's planning – such as the Artemis 2 round-the-moon mission that's scheduled for 2024, or for Artemis 3 moon landing that's set for no earlier than 2025.
Callisto could provide a teachable moment for the next generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers; Amazon, for instance, is making more information about the Artemis 1 mission accessible via Alexa-enabled devices. The company is also rolling out a new Amazon Future Engineer program called Alexa for Astronauts which will offer live virtual tours from NASA's Johnson Space Center as well as curriculum materials keyed to Artemis 1.
To get a preview of Alexa’s Artemis offerings, and to set up reminders for upcoming mission milestones, users can say, “Alexa, take me to the moon.” But don’t dare ask Alexa to open the pod bay doors.
Amazon is a well-known name in the field of e-Commerce, Retail, Operations, and the Internet. The company is headquartered in Seattle, WA, and aims to continuously delight its customers by enabling them to make smarter and faster decisions, and stay nimble, invent, and focused.
Founded in the year 1912 and headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland, Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company principally engaged in research, design, development, manufacture, integration, and sustainment of advanced technology systems, products, and services. Besides, the company also specializes in global security, space systems, defense, advanced technology, cyber security, energy, space exploration, military research, maritime systems, aviation, commercial aircraft, engineering, and artificial intelligence.
Cisco was founded in 1984. The company headquartered in San Jose, CA specializes in networking, wireless, security, unified communication, cloud, collaboration, data center, virtualization, and unified computing systems.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been committed to helping humanity explore the universe and discover the home planet. The U.S.-based organization has been breaking barriers to achieve seemingly impossible from walking on the Moon to pushing the boundaries of human spaceflight farther than ever. NASA'S legacy of excellence and innovation continues through an array of missions.
Founded in 1996, Amazon's Alexa is a global pioneer in the world of analytical insights. The wholly-owned subsidiary of Amazon.com, headquartered in San Francisco, California, specializes in web analytics, competitive analytics, SEO, SEM, competitive intelligence, and site performance audit. The company is well known for cloud-based voice service available on millions of devices from Amazon and third-party service manufacturers. Alexa's suite of intuitive analytics products transforms data into meaningful insights that lead to a competitive advantage for your company.