This new smart contract infrastructure could allow craft to automatically maneuver in orbit, avoid space debris and collect data without the aid of scientists. Machine learning, and neuromorphic computing will also play a role in automation.
NASA has issued a 330 000 grant to Dr Jin Wei Kocsis – professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Akron so that she may begin developing her “Resilient Networking and Computing Paradigm.
“I hope to develop technology that can recognize environmental threats and avoid them, as well as complete a number of tasks automatically,”
Millions of pieces of space debris around Earth
In the vast darkness of outer space radio signals can take a long time to reach their intended target. For unmanned exploratory vessels that could mean the difference between mission success or failure.
When the need arises to respond to any kind of imminent threat such as meteorites, space debris, or some kind of unexpected circumstance those moments in between broadcast and reception are crucial because for the most part spacecraft are not trained to adjust course if such an event were to arise.
However with the advent of machine learning not only does it make it possible for spacecrafts to adapt to incoming hazards, but it also allows them to perform a series of tasks that would otherwise require human supervision such as gathering and filtering information or docking at a space station.
This initial machine learning process involves exposing the AI to as many different simulated hypothetical scenarios as possible given the laws of physics. The sheer brute force of modern computing power essentially allows the A.I to learn multiple things simultaneously on “fast forward” so that it may build out it’s own contextual algorithms.
Rigo Roche, an engineer at NASA Glenn Research Center was quoted saying
“..if they encounter a problem that they haven’t seen before they have to be endowed with some sort of intelligence to understand what they need to do, to either keep sending data back, or do something smart so they can continue doing whatever job they were designed to do.”
NASA wants to use Ethereums “smart contracts” to organize encoded algorithms in to automated “stages” . For example smart contracts are currently being used to automate payment structures using really simple causal formulas such as
“if this person accomplishes that by this time they get this amount deposited in to their account”
With space exploration however the contract may look something like this
“If this vessel reaches this location by this time they should re-route here”
In essence a smart contract could act as a node upon which Machine learning uses to orient itself in stages. As long as unexpected events approximate closely enough to initial simulations spacecraft should be able to auto-correct smart contracts and adapt to circumstances without much human intervention.
Furthermore NASA wants to use Blockchain technology to record the history of space transactions on at this online immutable ledger of interconnected “blocks” similar to the technology underlying transparent Bitcoin and Ethereum transactions.
Space programs are no stranger to advanced futuristic computers. In fact the ESO is currently training a floating spherical robot alongside astronaut _________. The advanced AI uses something called neuromorphic computing to aid astronauts in solving complex problems in outer space.
This next generation of microchip technology is actually modeled to resemble the human brain. In fact it turns out to be essential for machine learning as conventional analog microchips simply do not have enough processing power to handle advanced algorithms required for learning. Since our brain is the most efficient information processor we know of modelling computers in a similar 3 dimensional web drastically reduces the power required for them to function properly.
That is also why NASA intends to use neuro-morphic processors for their “Resilient Networking and Computing Paradigm.”
“In this project, the Ethereum blockchain technology will be exploited to develop a decentralized, secure, and cognitive networking and computing infrastructure for deep space exploration. The blockchain consensus protocols will be further explored to improve the resilience of the infrastructure.”
NASA’s advanced communications program manager Thomas Kacpura:
“This latest effort would support decentralized processing amongst NASA space network nodes in a secure fashion, resulting in a more responsive, resilient scalable network that can integrate current and future networks in a consistent manner. It is expected that this project will contribute towards the next generation of space networks, and will allow for the tech transition of these algorithms for commercial systems (to take place even more smoothly)”.
Later in the game commercial asteroid mining will require a more timely efficient means of harvesting natural resources from space rock. An automated fleet of robotic spacecraft capable of adapting to fluctuating circumstances in gravity and asteroid composition certainly makes the entire proposal for asteroid mining more feasible in the long run.
This could also be just what we need to accomplish some of the more ambitious goals proposed by silicon valley CEOs Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson. Shuttling resources or colonists back and forth from Boeing Deep Space Gateway, Bransons space hotels to Bezos Moon village or Elon Musks Mars colony for example will require a more competent, autonomous network of spacecraft capable of performing a series of docking, launching and landing tasks with minimal human assistance. That is – if we are to keep the projects affordable and realistic.