NASA’s next deep space mission will not use artificial intelligence.

Nasa'S Next Deep Space Mission Will Not Use Artificial Intelligence.

Europa Clipper is gearing up for a five-year mission to Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, on a sunny Thursday morning in Pasadena, California, where NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) invited Decrypt and other members. Media to get a closer look.

While a lot of technology is being installed on the spacecraft, it will not include any AI chatbots.

The Clipper mission

Launching in October, Europa Clipper will study the Galilean moon Europa in a series of flybys around Jupiter. The Europa Clipper mission is designed to document the Jovian moon and assess its habitability. It will conduct detailed surveys, study the icy and subsurface oceans, search for signs of life, and examine the composition and geology of the Moon.


Media Day began at the NASA/JPL Visitor Center where we checked in with security, got our badges and met our tour guides.

(Image: Jason Nelson/Decrypt)

We boarded the tour bus and headed to the building where the Europa Clipper was located and entered the “clean room”.

Meeting the Europa Clipper

Preparing to move into the Europa Clipper warehouse was an exciting experience. First we were told to walk on a sticky mat that removed any dirt or grime from our shoes.

After cleaning our shoes, we clean all the equipment we plan to take to the warehouse before the gear is returned to us. Next we were taken to a room full of gowns.

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(Image: Jason Nelson/Decrypt)

After we agree, before entering the clean room, the last step is to take an air shower, which is only one time to remove dust or particles. When we entered the warehouse where the Europa Clipper was located, the first thing I noticed was how large the room was.

A member of the quality assurance team told Decrypt that we need every inch of space for the Europa Clipper as all the pieces fall into place.

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(Image: Jason Nelson/Decrypt)

How it's done

My first impression of the Europa Clipper was that it looked delicate, but the team of engineers told me that the orbiter was built to take a punch.

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(Image: Jason Nelson/Decrypt)

JPL harness engineer Luis Aguila told Decrypt, “We're going to hold it tight, and we're going to take it to a shock that mimics the launch situation and shakes the craft a lot.” “That makes sure everything is safe, nothing breaks on the road, and then we test again,” he said, noting that the team did the vibration test earlier this year.

Aguila also said the Europa Clipper's gross weight has increased by 13,000 pounds.

According to Jordan Evans, Europa Clipper project manager, the shape and design is deliberate and serves multiple purposes.

“The shape is dictated by several things: It has to fit inside the rocket, and the rocket is only five meters in diameter (about 16.4 feet), so everything — including the sun's rays — has to fit,” Evans said. Decrypt. “So when we fly each of us, different science instruments will have to look down at the surface of the moon.”

Evans explained that some of the instruments are designed to analyze the lunar atmosphere and are positioned to match the craft's trajectory. Other equipment needs to be isolated from the spacecraft to avoid interference. Evans emphasized that each device has specific requirements that must be incorporated into the Europa Clipper design.

Europa Clipper's design involves a complex process of balancing these requirements so that one does not negatively impact the other, resulting in the spacecraft's final design.

Retrieving data collected by Europa Clipper back to Earth requires a three-meter (about 9.84 feet) high-gain antenna mounted on the spacecraft.

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(Image: NASA/JPL)

“That goes to the Deep Space Network, which is also managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory,” Evans said. “So no matter where Jupiter and Europa clip in relation to Earth, one of the ground stations around Earth has a direct line of sight to the spacecraft,” he said, adding that the craft can send data through a large antenna. to those on the ground.

AI and space exploration

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has recently played a significant role in space exploration. In October, a team of scientists and astronomers from Northwestern University reported using AI to detect and identify supernovae in real time.

While artificial intelligence is playing a growing role in space exploration and NASA/JPL projects, Evans says Europa Clipper will not use it in any meaningful way.

“It's not—you can think of it as a normal computer,” added Tracy Drain, a flight systems engineer. “There's software running on board where things are completely set up to tell it what to do.”

Reaching the cloud on Earth means a 52-minute delay each way, so everything needed to operate the spacecraft must be on board.

After touring the Europa Clipper and going through the process of removing all the defense equipment, we took a shuttle bus to Von Karmann Hall to learn more about the facility and its mission.

History of high technology

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(Theodore Von Kármán in the Von Kármán Hall) (Image: Jason Nelson/Decrypt)

In the year JPL, founded in 1943 by a group of students, faculty and enthusiasts at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), nicknamed the “Suicide Squad” by their peers, traces its history back to the 1930s. The Suicide Squad included American aeronautical engineer Frank Malina, Hungarian aerospace engineer Teodor von Kármán, and rocket scientist, chemist and magician John Whiteside “Jack” Parsons.

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(Suicide Squad members left to right: Fred S. Miller, Jack Parsons, Ed Foreman, Frank Malina) (Image: NASA/JPL)

In December 1958, JPL was incorporated into the newly formed NASA.

After touring the Europa Clipper and going through the process of removing all the protective equipment, we boarded the shuttle bus to Von Karmann Hall. The space is covered in posters and displays from NASA/JPL missions including Voyager, Cassini, and of course Europa Clipper.

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(Image: Jason Nelson/Decrypt)

Look, don't touch

JPL Deputy Project Scientist Bonnie Burati told Decrypt, “The primary goal is to find an environment that can support life, not a life search mission.” “We're looking for an environment where life can form and sustain.”

Although Europa's surface appears to be covered in ice, Burati is unclear as to whether the lunar surface is safe for land or walking, unlike the icy world depicted in the 2014 Christopher Nolan film “Interstellar.”

As Burati explained, evidence shows that visible sediment deposits, possibly water deposits, create a weak surface. These different layers can hide the fractures that can fall into that hidden remainder.

“One of the things we're looking for is motion because if you look at that image of Europa, it doesn't look like there's a lot of craters on it,” Burati said. “There has been active geology for at least the last 50 million years, which is the blink of an eye in geologic time.”

As Burati explained, if the Europa Clipper finds signs of life on the moon, it's not a call for panic, but for further exploration, realizing that landing on the moon is not an option at this point.

“At this time, NASA is not planning to land on Europa,” Buratta said. “But if we find something that indicates life, then again, it's not a mission to find that we're looking for environments that support life. I think NASA probably plans to send it [another mission] over there”

The letter

Visiting the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was an amazing experience, and for a life-long enthusiast and history buff, it felt like it had come too early. When asked how a student in middle school or high school interested in science and space can get a job at JPL, Drain said the door is open to all.

“What I love about kids is that you don't have to be an engineer or a scientist to do this kind of work,” Drane said, emphasizing critical thinking as a key skill. “If you're interested in art, journalism, computer science and finance, there are many ways to pursue space-related careers here.”

Edited by Ryan Ozawa.

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