As NASA is working hard on its plan to launch a crewed mission to Mars in the following decades it is vital that state-of-the-art technology will be used in order to facilitate the initiative.
One of those technologies is a smart AI that will be able to take care of a planetary space station without external help. The idea has been inspired by HAL 9000, the antagonist of the cult classic movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.
A prototype has been developed by researchers from the Houston-based TRACLabs. Named CASE (cognitive architecture for space agents) the AI is designed to recreate the practical functions of HAL 9000.
Peter Bonasso, lead programmer, has been heavily influenced by the movie when it was first released back in 1968. HE was a student at West Point when the movie premiered. At that point in time the university only had one computer in the shape of the iconic General Electric 225. While the machine was obviously limited, the students were able to develop several creative projects. Bonasso dreamed that he will be able to create a replica of HAL 9000 in the future and the dream may soon become real.
The AI is still in the early stages and it only managed to run a simulation of a planetary station for a period of 4 hours but the results were great as no incidents were recorded.
CASE cannot do something that hasn’t been already programmed so the risk of sentient rebellion is inexistent. The AI system is composed of three layers that work in conjunction in order to ensure optimum performance. The first layer controls various hardware, the second is responsible with the software needed in order to execute various task and the third verifies if daily goals are reached and that any problem is addressed immediately in order to prevent escalation.
Researchers are now working on refining the program and hope to test it a controlled environment in the future.