The Artemis I moon mission launches into space in 2022. And onboard part of the mission will be an invisible guest. Amazon’s Alexa will launch into space.
When we stop to think about it, it actually makes a lot of sense to get a voice assistant into orbit. We feel a little surprised that it hasn’t happened already. After all, from Star Trek to Marvel, and more, technological assistants in spacecrafts have been features of sci-fi imaginations. In space, everything seems harder to do. Even simple tasks become cumbersome to enact. A voice assistant that can help with simple (or complex) tasks and can activate with only a word feels useful.
For now, Alexa will take off into space on an uncrewed flight. But according to a press release from Amazon:
Although the first mission is uncrewed, Artemis I is an important step that will allow NASA and others in the industry to test technology that could be used in subsequent crewed missions to the Moon and other deep space destinations. Alexa is one of many new, innovative technologies that will be tested as part of Artemis I, and the integration will help those involved explore how ambient intelligence can assist astronauts on future missions.
This isn’t your living room’s Alexa, of course. But a more Tony Stark-ified version, if you will. This suped-up Alexa can withstand “the intense shock and vibrations of launch and radiation exposure from passing through the Van Allen Radiation Belts.” And it can also support voice interactions in noisy environments and function in areas with limited to no connectivity.
The release shares, “Alexa will be able to access real-time telemetry data and respond to thousands of mission-specific questions onboard Orion, including questions like ‘Alexa, how fast is Orion traveling?’ or ‘Alexa, what’s the temperature in the cabin?'”Alexa can even control in-cabin lighting through voice requests. All this and more will allow engineers to learn about this space-flight.
Conversely, Alexa will have access to information from Earth to help connect astronauts with planet-side occurrences during travel. Data and imagery from the flight will also be available through Alexa-enabled products.
It really does sound like a sci-fi movie to us. And while this all sounds cool and really helpful… A part of us can’t help but think about how we are sending the machines to space.