A GPS for space should come with an epic voice. Just think of it: “turn left in 350 kilometers,” or “traffic ahead.” That’s what you’d hear from Google Maps or other GPS navigation apps. You have to follow the steps, and you reach the destination.
But in space, there is no such app. But NASA’s Frontier Development Lab (FDL) and Intel want to change that. They want to make traveling through space easier, and they will use artificial intelligence (AI) for it.
On 16 August, they presented their research at the event hosted by Intel.
Considering GPS stands for “global positioning system,” this system will not be global. The GPS that guides us on Earth relies on satellite information to give us the location, but a space GPS would need a satellite around planets and moons we want to visit, which it will be not only costly, but also extremely difficult. To solve this issue, NASA and Intel would use artificial intelligence and feed it with as many photos as possible taken from the surface of a planet or moon. The system would then be able to figure out the position in space when it sees a photo taken of a specific area.
Researchers built a virtual moon to test if the system works. They created 2.4 million images of the virtual moon – images that would have been taken by a rover like Mars Curiosity. They were then fed to the AI, which pieced them together to create the virtual moon.
As a result, the team concluded that the AI could effectively enable navigation on the virtual moon so that they could do the same thing with a real space rock: Mars.
There are many satellite images of the Red Planet, so the first humans to walk on Martian soil would quickly find their way around if they snap a photo of their surroundings.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.