Space agencies around the world are developing AI companions to help astronauts avoid loneliness, combat space-induced mental illness, and assist them in their multi-year journeys.
“Deep space travel will present unique challenges for crew members, challenges that are inherently different from those currently experienced in orbit,” said Alexandra Whitt, a scientist with NASA’s Human Factors and Behavioral Performance Team. Meyer says. told Space.com. “For example, considering the distance to Mars, the duration of such a mission would take about two and a half years.”
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“The vehicle’s relatively small size suggests a crew of four to six people living and working confined to a small quarters,” Whitmire continued. “If AI social support tools prove effective, they could serve as part of the preparedness toolkit available to future crews on missions to Mars.”
Both NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have been investigating whether AI-powered companions could support astronauts’ mental health and workflow during long journeys. In 2018, ESA debuted the Crew Interactive Mobile Companion, known as CIMON. It’s a round, volleyball-like computer that can float around the ISS and assist astronauts with their experiments.
Later versions of CIMON served as empathetic human companions intended to connect emotionally with the crew. You can also answer audio questions and record your interactions.
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Many science fiction movies include AI systems intended to assist space explorers, such as HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
But real-world AI systems require additional work, Whitmire says.
“Before recommending AI as a behavioral health intervention, further research is needed to understand how and to what extent this type of assistance is provided, as well as the potential pitfalls,” NASA scientists said. It’s necessary.”
“For some crew members, an AI ‘companion’ could become a safe sounding board,” Whitmire continued. “But for many, connecting with their families through audio and visual loops and maintaining crew team cohesion during missions will be an important way to support behavioral health.”
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NASA is also leveraging AI for other projects, including preparing for the effects of solar storms and helping find UFOs and potentially dangerous asteroids.
On the other hand, Japan’s space agency JAXA installed AI for the first time in history on its rocket “Epsilon”, which debuted in 2013. According to ESA. Epsilon’s AI performed system checks and autonomously monitored performance.
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The French Space Agency, the British Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency are all funding AI projects as well.
Still, Whitmire said the focus should be on AI tools to assist astronauts.
“While I think AI has the potential to provide support and also enhance measurement and diagnostics, our mission[to support future crew mental health]remains primarily human. It remains central and human-driven,” she added.