Artificial intelligence, Telecom and robotic space exploration

I have stumbled upon two news releases from the European Space Agency (ESA) about the use of AI techniques to help to improve the performance and quality acquisition of science data from the Mars Express Mission. The first news release is an interview with Dr Ari Kristinn Jónsson, Dean of the School of Computer Science at Reykjavik University, Iceland, and former research scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, where he led various projects both in AI development and in AI applications for space missions.

Artificial intelligence for robotic exploration: Q&A with Ari Kristinn Jónsson

29 April 2008

Dr Ari Kristinn Jónsson says that artificial intelligence (AI) can open up new opportunities for the long-term exploration of the solar system, supporting missions that require minimal oversight from human controllers on Earth.

The second news release deals specifically with the problem in Mars Express that has been resolved with the help of MEXAR2 (‘Mars Express AI Tool’), developed by AI researchers at Italy’s Institute for Cognitive Science and Technology (ISTC-CNR) led by Dr Amedeo Cesta and mission planners and computer scientists at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany.

Artificial intelligence boosts science from Mars

29 April 2008

Artificial intelligence (AI) being used at the European Space Operations Centre is giving a powerful boost to ESA’s Mars Express as it searches for signs of past or present life on the Red Planet.


Traditionally, data downloading was managed using human-operated scheduling software to generate command sequences sent to Mars Express, telling it when to dump specific data packets. “This is tedious, time-consuming and never really eliminated the occasional loss – forever – of valuable science data,” says Alessandro Donati, Head of the Advanced Mission Concepts and Technologies Office at ESA’s Space Operations Centre (ESOC), Darmstadt, Germany.


But since 2005, AI researchers at Italy’s Institute for Cognitive Science and Technology (ISTC-CNR) led by Dr Amedeo Cesta and mission planners and computer scientists at ESOC have been developing a solution to the complex Mars Express scheduling problem by applying artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to the problem. These are similar to those used to solve scheduling and optimisation problems faced by airlines, shipping companies and large construction projects.

2 comentarios en “Artificial intelligence, Telecom and robotic space exploration

  1. More on the Mexar2 tool for the ESA Mars Express Mission published on 21st May in European Research Online:TECHNOLOGYTitle Artificial intelligence tackles data transmission from spaceFlash back to 1956 where scientists are brainstorming and writing breakthrough programs in the field of Artificial intelligence (AI). Flash forward to 2008 where AI is helping mission planners improve data transmission from the Mars Express spacecraft . Since its inception, AI has been offering exciting solutions to complex problems and its entry into the space mission operations field as a value-added technology is benefiting Europe and the rest of the world.[…]More information:# European Space Agency# Mars Express

  2. I’ve done a deeper search on Google with the search string AI applications available for space mission operations and I’ve find out more than one thousand hits. Among the first group of ten, there are a lot of versions of the ESA Mars Express Mission and AI that I’ve mentioned in past responses and the main article.Trying to get something more, I’ve skimmed the rest of the links and I’ve collected the following material which I think is worth reading:* IEEE Intelligent Systems. July/August 2006 (Vol. 21, No. 4) pp. 64-69. The Future of AI in Space.Steve Chien, Jet Propulsion LaboratoryRichard Doyle, Jet Propulsion LaboratoryAshley Gerard Davies, Jet Propulsion LaboratoryAri Jónsson, NASA AmesRalph Lorenz, University of ArizonaAbstractTwo key flight technology experiments–the Remote Agent Experiment (RAX) and the Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment (ASE)–validated appropriate uses of AI-based capabilities in future robotic and human exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond. A survey of future missions describes some of them.NOTE: The references of this interesting paper are also worth reading.NOTE: The paper is only available from subscribers of the publication IEEE Intelligent Systems.* ASPEN – Automated Planning and Scheduling for Space Mission Operations.S. Chien, G. Rabideau, R. Knight, R. Sherwood, B. Engelhardt,D. Mutz, T. Estlin, B. Smith, F. Fisher, T. Barrett, G. Stebbins, D. TranJet Propulsion Laboratory, California < HREF="” REL=”nofollow”>Institute of Technology4800 Oak Grove Drive, M/S 126-347, Pasadena, CA 91109-8099AbstractThis paper describes the ASPEN system for automation of planning and scheduling for space mission operations. ASPEN contains a number of innovations including: an expressive but easy to usemodeling language, multiple search (inference) engines, iterative repair suited for mixed-initiative human in loop operations, real-time replanning and response (in the CASPER system), and plan optimization. ASPEN is being used for the Citizen Explorer (CX-1) (August 2000 launch) and the 2nd Antarctic Mapping Missions (AMM-2) (September 2000). ASPEN has also been used to automate ground communications stations – automating generation of tracking plans for the Deep Space Terminal (DS-T). ASPEN has been used to demonstrate automated command generation and onboard planning for rovers and is currently being evaluated for operational use for the Mars-01 Marie Curie rover mission. CASPER, the soft real-time versions of ASPEN, has been demonstrated with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) Mission Data Systems (MDS) Control Architecture prototypes.* Artificial Intelligence for Space Applications, pp. 235-253. Book chapter from Intelligent Computing Everywhere. Springer London, 2007.Daniela Girimonte Contact Information and Dario IzzoEuropean Space Agency, Advanced Concepts Team, ESTEC, EUI-ACT, Keplerlaan 1, 2201 AZ, Noordwijk, The NetherlandsThe ambitious short-term and long-term goals set down by the various national space agencies call for radical advances in several of the main space engineering areas, the design of intelligent space agents certainly being one of them. In recent years, this has led to an increasing interest in artificial intelligence by the entire aerospace community. However, in the current state of the art, several open issues and showstoppers can be identified. In this chapter, we review applications of artificial intelligence in the field of space engineering and space technology and identify open research questions and challenges. In particular, the following topics are identified and discussed: distributed artificial intelligence, enhanced situation self-awareness, and decision support for spacecraft system design.* Mexar2: AI Solves Mission Planner Problems.Amedeo Cesta, Gabriella Cortellessa, Simone Fratini, and Angelo Oddi,Italian National Research CouncilMichel Denis, Alessandro Donati, Nicola Policella, Erhard Rabenau, and Jonathan Schulster, European Space Agency


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