AI is exploring extraterrestrial* surfaces
NASA is developing technology that could enable autonomous navigation for future underwater drones studying subsurface oceans on icy moons like Jupiter’s Europa. The agency is working on artificial intelligence (AI) that would allow submersibles to make their own decisions during exploration of extraterrestrial water worlds.
* extraterrestrial= outside the earth or its atmosphere
Finding the hidden water resources
Space exploration missions and astronomical observations in recent years have shown that our Solar System is abundant in water and could host at least several subsurface liquid oceans. The scientific community assumes water exists beneath the crust of Europa, as well as on other icy moons like Saturn’s Dione and Ganymede. Compelling evidence of hidden oceans on dwarf planets Ceres and Pluto has been also presented recently , proving many mysteries may lie deep underground these frigid celestial bodies, waiting to be uncovered by underwater robotic explorers.
Making smart decisions for months
NASA is aware of the emerging challenges it must face if it wants to successfully explore subsurface oceans on Europa and other icy worlds. Such underwater drones would focus on searching for microbial life in this harsh environment which strongly impedes nominal communications with mission control on Earth. Therefore, the key issue here is to develop a highly-autonomous submarine-like probe capable of making decisions on its own in real-time in order to continue exploration and research uninterrupted. “Depending on the exact mission concept under consideration, autonomous underwater vehicles exploring ocean worlds will need to operate autonomously for days to months,” Steve Chien of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) . Chien further stated that “within this time frame they must manage their own resources, explore a largely unknown environment, including navigating to and from a single point of insertion which also serves as a communications link to the outside world.” […]