NASA’s next deep space mission won’t use artificial intelligence.

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Europa Clipper is being prepared for a five-year mission to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, and on a sunny Thursday morning in Pasadena, California, NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) What is invited? Decrypt and other members of the media for a closer look.

Although a lot of advanced technology is being loaded onto the spacecraft, however, there will be no AI chatbots on board.

The Clipper Mission

Launching in October, Europa Clipper will study the Galilean moon Europa through a series of flybys in orbit around Jupiter. The Europa Clipper mission is designed to document the Jovian moon and assess its habitability. It will conduct detailed research, study the icy surface and subsurface ocean, look for signs of life, and analyze the composition and geology of the Moon.

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

(Photo: Jason Nelson/Decrypt)

Boarding the tour bus, we headed to the building where the Europa Clipper was housed and entered the “clean room”.

Meet the Europa Clipper

Getting ready to enter the Europa Clipper warehouse was an interesting experience. First, we were asked to walk on an adhesive mat that would remove any dirt or lingering particles from our shoes.

After cleaning our shoes, we reversed all the gear we planned to carry into the warehouse to be cleaned before the gear was returned to us. Next, we were ushered into a room filled with gowns and protective equipment.

(Photo: Jason Nelson/Decrypt)

After suiting up, the last step before entering the clean room was to take a shower in the air to give us a final once over to remove any dust or particles. As we entered the warehouse where the Europa Clipper was housed, the first thing I noticed was how large the room was.

“We’re going to need every inch of that space when all the Europa Clipper pieces are in place, and it’s time to move the unit out,” said a member of the quality assurance team. A member said. DecryptPointing to the high ceiling

(Photo: Jason Nelson/Decrypt)

How is it made?

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

(Photo: Jason Nelson/Decrypt)

“We treat it delicately, and then we take it to a shaker that simulates launch conditions and shakes the craft really hard,” said JPL harness engineer Luis Aguila. PL harness engineer Luis Aguila said. Decrypt. “It makes sure everything is secure, nothing’s going to break on the way, and then we retest after that,” he said, adding that the team did vibration testing earlier this year. .

Aguila also noted that the gross weight of the Europa Clipper is upwards of 13,000 pounds.

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

“The shape is driven by different 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 solar array — has to fit,” Evans said. . Decrypt. “Then, as we do every flyby, the various science instruments need to look down at the lunar surface.”

Some of the instruments are positioned to face the direction the spacecraft is flying because they are designed to analyze the lunar atmosphere, Evans explained. Other equipment needs to be isolated to avoid interference from the spacecraft. Evans emphasized that each instrument has specific requirements that must be integrated into Europa Clipper’s design.

Europa Clipper’s design involved a complex process of balancing these requirements to ensure that one did not negatively impact the other, Evans said, leading to the spacecraft’s final design. Is.

Getting the data that Europa Clipper collects back to Earth requires a three-meter (about 9.84 feet) high antenna mounted on top of the spacecraft.

(Photo: NASA/JPL)

“It goes to the Deep Space Network, which is also operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory,” Evans said. “So no matter how much closer Jupiter and Europa Clipper are to Earth, one of the ground stations around Earth will have a direct line of sight to the spacecraft,” Kraft added. Able to send data through large antennas. To those who return to earth.

AI and space exploration

Artificial intelligence (AI) has played an important role in recent space exploration efforts. In October, a group of Northwestern University scientists and astronomers reported using AI to identify and classify supernovae in real time.

While artificial intelligence is playing an increasing role in space exploration and NASA/JPL projects, Evans said Europa Clipper does not use AI in any meaningful way.

“It’s not — you can think of it like a standard computer,” added Tracy Drain, flight systems engineer. “There’s software that runs on the board where things are completely programmed to tell it what to do.”

Everything needed to operate the spacecraft must be on board because accessing the cloud on Earth would mean a delay of 52 minutes each way.

After touring the Europa Clipper and going through the process of removing all the protective gear, we took a shuttle bus to the Von Kerman Auditorium to learn more about the facility and the mission.

Hi-tech history

(Statue of Theodor von Karman in the lobby of the von Karman Auditorium) (Photo: Jason Nelson/Decrypt)

Founded in 1943, JPL traces its history to the 1930s with the work of a group of California Institute of Technology (Caltech) students, faculty, and enthusiasts known by their colleagues as the “Suicide Squad.” The name is given. The Suicide Squad consisted of American aeronautical engineer Frank Milena, Hungarian aerospace engineer Theodor von Karman, and rocket scientist, alchemist, and magician John Whiteside “Jack” Parsons.

(Suicide Squad members from left to right: Fred S. Miller, Jack Parsons, Ed Forman, Frank Milena) (Photo: NASA/JPL)

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

After visiting the Europa Clipper and going through the process of removing all the protective gear, we took a shuttle bus to the Von Kerman Auditorium. The space was lined with posters and displays of past and present NASA/JPL missions, including Voyager, Cassini, and of course, the Europa Clipper.

(Photo: Jason Nelson/Decrypt)

Look, don’t touch

“The primary goal is the search for an environment that can support life, not a life-detection mission,” said Bonnie Barati, JPL’s deputy project scientist. Decrypt. “We’re looking for an environment where life can form and persist.”

While Europa’s surface appears to be covered in ice, Barati said, unlike the icy world in the 2014 Christopher Nolan film, “Interstellar,” it’s unclear whether the moon’s surface is safe to land on or walk on. Is.

As Barati explained, the evidence suggests that visible sediment deposits, possibly plume deposits, form a critical surface. These separate layers can hide the crack that can fall into this hidden residue.

“One thing we’re going to look for is activity because if you look at this picture of Europa, it doesn’t seem to have a lot of craters,” Barati said. “There has been active geology for at least the last 50 million years, a blink of an eye in geologic time.”

As Bratti explained, if Europa Clipper discovers signs of life on the moon, it’s not a matter of concern but of further exploration, recognizing that landing on the lunar surface is not an option at this time.

“Right now, NASA doesn’t plan to land on Europa,” Burrata said. “But if we find something that points to life, then, it’s not a mission to find that we’re looking for an atmosphere that can sustain life. I think NASA might send Will intend to. [another mission] there.”


Visiting the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was an amazing experience, and for a lifelong fan of space exploration and history, it felt like Christmas had come early. When asked how a student in middle school or high school who is interested in science and space can get a job at JPL, Drain said the door is open to everyone.

“My favorite thing to tell kids is that you don’t have to be an engineer or a scientist to do this kind of work,” Drain said, emphasizing critical thinking as an important skill. “If you’re interested in the arts, journalism, computer science and finance, there are many ways you can end up here working in space.”

Edited by Ryan Ozawa.

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