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AI Pushing the Boundaries of Space Exploration 89

An anonymous reader writes "An interesting look at how artificial intelligence will help probes to undertake more complex missions in deep space, aid robot rovers in exploring other planets and improve satellites' ability to monitor activities on earth."
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AI Pushing the Boundaries of Space Exploration

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  • In other news... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Issildur03 ( 1173487 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @11:23AM (#33859580) Homepage

    fuel chemistry is pushing the bounds of space exploration. And steel engineering. And antenna design. And numerous other fields.

  • Re:The term "AI" (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 11, 2010 @11:43AM (#33859792)
    "nano" means 10^-9.
  • Re:The term "AI" (Score:3, Informative)

    by thijsh ( 910751 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @11:44AM (#33859806) Journal
    What is generally referred to as AI is anything automated that doesn't follow a predetermined algorithm or fixed boundaries... An AI can be an adapting algorithm in something as simple as a thermostat or the CPU-player that tries to kill you in an FPS. This a very broad definition and can indeed be seen as a moving target.

    Strong AI [wikimedia.org] on the other hand is a well defined target of current AI research that isn't a moving target, but rather too complicated. The popularized version of AI that becomes sentient, creative and unpredictable in the movies is about strong AI.
  • T2 quote (Score:4, Informative)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @01:04PM (#33860622)

    John Connor: You just can't go around killing people.

    The Terminator: Why?

    John Connor: What do you mean why? 'Cause you can't.

    The Terminator: Why?

    John Connor: Because you just can't, OK? Trust me on this.

  • by Quantus347 ( 1220456 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @02:07PM (#33861318)
    Just like they will not punt a multi-million dollar telescope into orbit without testing the primary mirror? And they'd never shoot a $327 million Orbiter to mars without checking the math to make sure the units add up, right?

    Face it, space agencies are run by people and governments. They are at least as prone to mistakes and financially driven shortcuts as any other element of human society.
  • by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Monday October 11, 2010 @02:46PM (#33861732) Homepage

    Agreed, they look mostly like sophisticated expert systems.

    Expert systems are a type of AI. In fact a highly successful type of AI. Aside from being highly successful, they also have the useful property of being predictable. Which is beneficial when the idea is to have a probe operating autonomously and without human supervision/observation for periods of time. An expert system may not be programmed to give optimal output in all situations, but unlike some other kinds of AI (neural nets for example) it is unlikely to go completely bonkers when given inputs outside of its training set.

    AI simply means a program that tries to select an optimal behavior based on environmental input (and the environment doesn't even have to be the real world). AIs don't necessarily need to learn, self-modify, or do anything more sophisticated than take the set of inputs from sensors, and look up the proper response in a static table (your car probably contains such an AI).

    Existing probes contain a small amount of AI, but they are still almost entirely dependent on human operators and this is about expanding their capabilities.

    In popular culture, AI means Hal 9000 or Skynet, but in the context of NASA or just about any real, technical application (Expert Systems for example) that is not the definition being used.

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." -- Will Rogers