NASA Scientists Teach AI to Drive on the Moon. He will help with Artemis' mission

NASA Scientists Teach AI to Drive on the Moon.  He will help with Artemis' mission

Similar landscapes, lack of landmarks and ubiquitous dust – it is extremely easy to get lost on the Moon. NASA scientists from the Artemis program decided to train AI that would guide astronauts.

People can get lost even on Earth, where we have had amenities such as roads, signs, distance markers, natural landmarks, and so on for centuries. The Moon is dominated by emptiness and the ubiquitous regolith – dust covering the entire surface of the Earth's natural satellite.

NASA scientists are working hard on an artificial intelligence (AI) system that will act as a navigator for astronauts who fly to the Moon as part of the Artemis 3 mission.

NASA Artemis trains AI to navigate on the Moon

Alvin Yew, a research engineer at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, is the leader of the team developing advanced AI.

– For safety and for geotagging the lunar surface, it is crucial that astronauts always know exactly where they are during each exploration. Therefore, we want to equip the devices with accurate local maps that will support both missions performed by humans and robots – says the specialist.

This is where artificial intelligence comes into play and manages the entire navigation system. AI is supposed to learn about its surroundings, including: through a system of hills, crater ridges and boulders.

NASA used data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been orbiting the Moon since 2009, for science. There is a LOLA device on board the machine – Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter. It measures distances, elevations and other surface properties with high accuracy, creating high-quality topographic maps of the Moon.

How does NASA's navigation AI work?

However, accurate satellite data is only half the battle. As NASA points out, the task of AI is to recreate the characteristics of the terrain from the astronaut's perspective. Based on maps created from orbit, the system must find specific points of the terrain from a completely different angle.

The machine aims to achieve this by creating accurate panoramic “photos” of the surroundings. The AI ​​product will be compared, among others: with the arrangement of ridges known from lunar orbiter maps. The digitally created photos will then be compared with actual photos taken by rovers or astronauts. This will allow them to determine with great accuracy where they are currently and which direction they are looking.

– Our concept is like going out onto a plain and finding out where we are by the appearance of the horizon and the arrangement of landmarks. While it may be easy to estimate the position by eye, our AI is intended to help determine the astronauts' position with an accuracy of 30 feet, Yew adds.

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