Alexa will be launched into space as part of NASA’s Artemis I mission, which is the first in a series of missions aimed at landing a woman and the first person of color on the moon’s surface.
Callisto, a technology demonstration payload embedded in NASA’s Orion spacecraft and built by engineers from Amazon, Cisco, and Lockheed Martin, will bring Alexa along for the ride. Aaron Rubenson, the vice president of Alexa Everywhere at Amazon said, “It’s exciting and humbling to see our vision for ambient intelligence come to life on board Orion.
” To that end, Lockheed Martin says, “We’re proud to be working with us to push the limits of voice technology, and we hope Alexa’s role in the mission helps inspire future scientists, astronauts, and engineers who will define this next era of space exploration.”
Orion’s Alexa System Has Been Integrated.
As the first flight of NASA’s new Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, Artemis I is a comprehensive evaluation of those systems’ interoperability. Artemis I, NASA’s first unmanned mission, is an important first step in testing technology that may be used on crewed missions to the Moon and other distant celestial bodies in the future.
The integration of Alexa into Artemis I will help those involved explore how ambient intelligence can assist astronauts on future missions. Many new, innovative technologies will be tested as part of Artemis I.
Amazon and Lockheed Martin engineers have been working together to integrate Alexa into the Callisto payload, and we envision a future where astronauts can turn to an onboard AI for information, assistance, and companionship.
Since the launch and radiation exposure from passing through the Van Allen Radiation Belts were both factors that had to be taken into consideration, Lockheed Martin created custom, space-grade hardware that included Alexa.
Using Amazon’s acoustic and audio processing software, far-field voice interactions through Alexa were supported, tuning algorithms to account for the noise from engines and pumps and the reverberation associated with so many metallic surfaces within the cabin.
With the help of Amazon’s Local Voice Control technology, Alexa can operate in areas where there is little or no internet access.
A combination of world-class artificial intelligence and local processing on board the spacecraft will allow future astronauts to access specific information and features almost instantly, bypassing the delay (or latency) associated with sending information from the Moon back to Earth.
When Are We Going Arrive on The Moon, Alexa?
Even in science fiction, putting Amazon’s AI-enabled voice assistant on a spaceship bound for the moon may seem absurd (hello, HAL!). The Artemis 1 round-the-moon mission, which will take place in NASA’s Orion deep space capsule later this year, will use a radiation-hardened console.
The first flight of NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket will take place without any humans on board. When it comes time for the technology demonstration in Houston, Lockheed Martin, Amazon and Cisco have decided that Alexa’s voice and Echo’s pulsing blue light will interact with mission control operators.
In honor of the mythological nymph who was a devotee of Artemis, the project is dubbed “Callisto.”
A first-of-its-kind technology will be demonstrated by Callisto, according to Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager of commercial civil space at Lockheed Martin, in a press release issued today.
Aaron Rubenson, vice president of Amazon Alexa, considers it a personal honor to have Alexa join the team. Alexa’s original inspiration came from the Star Trek computer, he said during a conference call.
“This notion of an ambient intelligence that is there when you need it… but then also fades into the background when you don’t need it” was the basis for Alexa, he said.
After more than seven years of development, Alexa is finally making its way out of the cave it has been hiding in. For example, “we envision a future in which astronauts could use an onboard AI for access to information, for assistance in doing their work, for making their work more efficient, and ultimately for some form of companionship,” Rubenson said.
Ahead of the Orion spacecraft’s launch, Amazon worked with Orion’s prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, on optimizing their Echo hardware for radiation resistance in space and their Alexa software for improved voice recognition in a louder environment than a typical living room.
Orion’s future crews and ground controllers could benefit from a tablet-based version of Cisco’s Webex videoconferencing system, which includes a whiteboarding feature.
Even if the spacecraft loses communication with Earth, the in-space version of Alexa can still support voice interactions. Crews in lunar orbit won’t have to deal with the communication gaps that plagued the Apollo astronauts, thanks to the availability of local voice control.
Rubenson explained that the demonstration was made possible by overcoming a variety of obstacles. Alexa now has the ability to process thousands of new interactions relevant to space and the mission, which we’ve added from a capability standpoint.
In March or April, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is scheduled to launch Artemis 1, which is equipped with Callisto, which will be placed in front of Orion’s crew cabin.
To find and fix the bugs, the team recently performed an end-to-end communications test. According to Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ executive director of human spaceflight strategy and business development Rob Chambers “We had a couple of problems but we corrected them and it was great.”