Alexa, let’s go to the moon
Much has happened since humans last set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, on the American Apollo 11 mission. Since then, technology has advanced immeasurably in the space industry, and also with the birth and evolution of the internet.
With the goal in mind, NASA’s promise feels more and more real and, although it will require even more years of refinement before it can be employed on human crewed spacecraft, the next Artemis I mission will be ‘manned’ with a virtual crew. Now we can say, “Alexa, take me to the moon.”
Here on Earth, Amazon’s (NASDAQ: AMZN) Echo Dot device software has made our routines more manageable and our relationship with technology better unquestionably. It will be no different in space, as the Callisto project, currently being developed by Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) in collaboration with Amazon and Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO), proposes enhancing future space missions by merging Amazon’s Alexa technology with Cisco’s Webex teleconferencing platform.
Rob Chambers, Lockheed Martin’s Director of Commercial Civil Space Strategy, comments that this program seeks to demonstrate that “astronauts can be helped with some unique human interface technologies, making their jobs simpler, safer and more efficient.”
Through software already developed by Amazon, Callisto will allow astronauts to adjust controls and lighting, learn flight data, and communicate with equipment on the ground through voice commands and without the need for an Internet connection. This will make it easier to support the space mission from the ground control base.
The mission was originally scheduled to launch in November, but delays due to the pandemic, and storms such as Hurricane Ida, among other factors, have affected the mission’s schedule.
Mike Sarafin, Artemis Mission Manager, indicated that several dates are being considered for liftoff around the first quarter of 2022. And, although these dates are not definite yet, the mission is expected to take a trip to the moon in the Orion capsule to return to our planet without having landed on lunar soil.
And, is a moon landing foreseen in the near future? In its Office of Inspector General (OIG) report, NASA indicated that the lander will not be ready by 2022 as projected. It is subject to schedule delays and high program costs, so everything indicates that we will have to wait a little longer to witness yet another human landing on the moon. The document predicts that the landing will be delayed to as late as 2028.
So far, the Callisto system has been tested in simulators and the companies involved are confident of its effectiveness. However, the OIG suggested NASA consider commercial space vehicle alternatives that can carry and land the capsule to lunar orbits, such as SpaceX’s Starship Super Heavy or Blue Origin’s New Glenn. This could start a new dynamic between companies.
For now, we will be able to know the experience of Artemis I, whose capsule will be managed by commands from mission control on Earth and monitored through cameras inside the capsule. It will be launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center located at Cape Canaveral in Florida, USA.
Are we ready? Alexa, let’s start the mission.