HAL is back in orbit

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jserraglio
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HAL is back in orbit

Post by jserraglio » Fri Jun 29, 2018 9:39 am

WAPO — CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. — Unlike HAL, it won’t be able to open the pod bay doors.
Its programming is limited, capable of conversation and technical support but not much else, at least for now. And instead of the searing red eye of the super computer gone rogue in Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi film, “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the artificially intelligent robot launched into space from here Friday has a screen displaying a genial face prone to smiles.
CIMON, as it is known (an acronym for Crew Interactive Mobile Companion), is designed to help astronauts on board the International Space Station perform their work — namely the science experiments they are sent aboard the orbiting laboratory.
On Friday, it became the first AI technology launched to the space station, officials said, an experiment that would be a sort of Alexa in space, able to help astronauts through the steps outlined in a manual, show pictures of certain parts of the experiment and answer questions about it.
The idea to is ease the burden on astronauts in space, where life can get tough and tedious, but not ever supplant them, or their decisions, officials said. Built by Airbus and powered by Watson, IBM’s supercomputer, CIMON looks like an oversized head. It will be guided by cameras and voice commands, able to hold a conversation, and relay information to commanders on the ground.
“We never plan to replace the crew member with the artificial intelligence,” said Philipp Schulien, Airbus’s lead system engineer. “We are just there to support the crew. In the end, the human crew will always be required. The AI is not self-training.”
CIMON flew on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that blasted off at 5:42 a.m. Friday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, part of 5,900 pounds of cargo and supplies headed for the station.
Leaving a stunning contrail in the predawn sky, the launch was a significant one for SpaceX, the California space company founded by Elon Musk in 2002. It was its 12th of the year and the last one of its so-called “Block 4” version of the rocket.
SpaceX plans to fly its future flights on its next-generation iteration, the “Block 5,” a configuration that the company says will be suited to fly astronauts as soon as this year. While SpaceX has been flying cargo to the station for years, it has not yet flown humans.
SpaceX hit a series of milestones with the launch. It was its 15th mission to resupply the station, the 14th time SpaceX reflew one of its boosters, and the fourth time it had reflown one of its Dragon capsules.
But it was the first time it flew anything like CIMON. The robot is still very much in the early stages of development, officials said, an experiment in itself to test how the technology works in space, and how the astronauts would react to it.
Though it was designed specifically for German astronaut Alexander Gerst — it interacted with him during training to recognize his face and speech patterns — CIMON would work with any of the astronauts, officials said.
Gerst helped pick CIMON’s voice and the design of its face. He would be able to summon it by simply saying its name. It would then detect what direction his voice was coming from, orient itself toward him and cruise to him on its own.
One of its tasks aboard the station will be to help Gerst go through the steps of a specific science experiment. But it will also be tested to see how helpful it can be. Gerst will attempt to solve a Rubik’s cube, first on his own, and then with the help of CIMON.
Eventually, Airbus officials think that artificial intelligence could be helpful on deep space exploration missions to the moon, or Mars. AI could help the crews solve problems, warn of malfunctions — or even just entertain them.
CIMON would be able to “play videos, read books,” Schulien said. “It even has the ability to engage in small talk.”

Christian Davenport covers the defense and space industries for The Washington Post's Financial desk.

jbuck919
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Re: HAL is back in orbit

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Jun 30, 2018 11:46 am

Can anyone identify any significant science done aboard the boondoggle ISS? I worked for a NASA contractor when it first started being constructed and in all those years I have yet to read a report of what is going on there that justifies the expense, especially as opposed to the spectacular results achieved with much more economical unmanned probes.

The other day on NPR's "Academic Moment," the speaker praised the ISS because it permits experiments in which surface tension alone contains fluids. Well, whooo-peeee, I didn't know that. :roll: At the very least, the ISS has a severe PR problem. If anything important is happening there, it should be receiving publicity, but no, you can't even find out anything about it in common scientific magazines such as Scientific American. How then does it escape the budget-cutter's axe? The answer is simple. People are so enamored of the idea of manned space flight and its airy-fairy promises that it doesn't need any other justification. Still, it is what has kept NASA alive and able to do some real science for many decades.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

jserraglio
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Re: HAL is back in orbit

Post by jserraglio » Sat Jun 30, 2018 12:03 pm

You are aware of course that the Trump Administration is privatizing the ISS. So I don't see what the issue is. Soon the ISS won't cost taxpayers anything as NASA turns ISS over to the commercial market over the next seven years. Not that whatever NASA spends on the ISS now isn't mere chump change. Not that $19 billion for NASA in the current budget isn't itself a pittance.

You also know that unmanned space flight with its 'spectacular real science' experiments might never have got off the ground without 'airy-fairy' manned space flight. The ISS 'boondoggle' harkens back back to the heavier-than-air fantasy two Ohio lads first became 'enamored of' 118 years ago.

Pitting manned and unmanned space programs against each other Is a false dichotomy. There is a place for both, given the will to do both.

Instead of that, Trump proposes to militarize space with a new service branch, the 'Space Force'. Most likely that black hole will suck up even more resources than our current 'Air Force'.

NASA's budget needs an overhaul — in the opposite direction to that of recent years. But to keep the penny-wise, pound-foolish happy, let's do just a token increase, a 10% tithe based on the DOD's 0.575-trillion-dollar budget. That trifling amount would result in more than a threefold increase for NASA.

jserraglio
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Joined: Sun May 29, 2005 7:06 am
Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Re: HAL is back in orbit

Post by jserraglio » Tue Jul 03, 2018 12:21 pm

Geophysicist Alexander Gerst, flying on the ISS and co-contributor to CIMON's design, talks to college kids in NZ and defends mannedspace travel.


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