The Rashid rover, from the United Arab Emirates, was launched in December and is traveling towards the Moon. On board, he takes a machine learning system developed by Mission Control Space Services (MCSS), in partnership with the Canadian space agency. The vehicle is housed inside the Hakuto-R, the Japanese ispace landing module, and should arrive at our natural satellite in April.
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When it arrives, the rover will look for minerals and other compounds of interest and investigate the Moon’s past with the help of the system, a technology demonstration that will help it in decision-making. If all goes well, this will be the first time that an artificial intelligence has been brought to function beyond low Earth orbit.
Rashid is expected to operate for approximately one lunar day (about 14 Earth days). During this period, the MCSS will receive navigation images from the rover through the lander, which will also take care of communication with Earth. According to Ewan Reid, CEO of the company, each pixel of the images sent will be classified as a certain type of terrain.
He adds that the information will be transmitted to teams on the ground, to be used by scientists and engineers at the company’s office and at universities in Canada. This way, everyone can help mission members decide where the rover’s next “stop” will be.
For him, when the time comes when engineers are confident that artificial intelligence can differentiate minerals and distinguish rocks from craters, human help in future missions may no longer be so necessary.
Reid also points out that AI can help save satellite transmission bandwidth: as it is limited, it can be used to transmit only the data, images and videos that scientists need.
The CEO points out that this is just the beginning: Reid notes that the possible success of the system could prove essential for future NASA lunar missions. “Artificial intelligence will be a critical tool for decision-making onboard the spacecraft,” he concluded.