Saturday, April 13, 2024

MBIE launches AI project to support astronaut selection

An AI-assisted tool designed to support astronaut selection and clinical decision making is set to be developed under a partnership between the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and US space company, Axiom Space.

The project is being led by Dr Brian Russell of Ambient Cognition and aims to provide a new way to monitor astronaut health and performance, the Ministry said in a statement.

New Zealand company Ambient Cognition is a commercial provider of AI enabled decision making tools for medical and human performance; while Axiom Space is the commercial provider of private astronaut missions to the International Space Station (ISS) and is building the world’s first commercial space station.

The development of the tool is the next step for this project, which is one of two projects selected for initial feasibility studies under a Memorandum of Understanding signed between MBIE and Axiom Space in 2022.

“This partnership provides an opportunity for us to explore exciting new industry niches for New Zealand’s growing space sector,” said MBIE Policy Director, Robyn Henderson.

“Dr Russell’s work is a continuation of his previous research at NASA on AI enabled Clinical Decision Support systems. This project has the potential to not only improve astronaut selection processes and clinical monitoring in space, but also to help people here on Earth who may be a long way from medical care, such as remote communities in New Zealand or researchers in Antarctica.”

The tool will interact with astronaut applicants or existing astronauts being recertified to identify any medical conditions that are outside accepted standards and automate the process to characterise or reduce medical risk by identifying the need for more tests or treatment.

“AI enabled human-machine teaming offers the potential to scale human expertise in high severity situations for small groups of people that don’t have access to knowledge typically delivered by a team of experts. That’s why solving this for space also solves the problem for other remote operators and communities,” said Dr Russell.

“We are now working on how the system will interact with medical staff and astronauts, building the tool, and trialling it with a lab and field test with Axiom Space, as well as with a wider audience.”

The project aligns with Goal 4 of the recently released Aotearoa New Zealand Aerospace Strategy: ‘Actively support exploration in space’. Goal 4 aims to build on New Zealand’s existing strengths to develop high-value solutions that support a sustained presence in space.

Read Aotearoa New Zealand Aerospace Strategy.

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