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Autonomy for Future SMD Missions

Workshop Information

The Autonomy for Future SMD Missions is scheduled to take place on Friday, July 21st, immediately following the Exploration Science Forum.

The event will take place at NASA Ames Research Center, Conference Center Building 152, the same location as the NASA Exploration Science Forum. For directions and other logistics related information, view the logistics page.

The past decade has seen remarkable advances in autonomous systems and robotics. NASA recognizes that such technologies are key to enabling future space exploration under constrained budgets. The developments in these areas outside of NASA are numerous: self-driving cars, unmanned aerial systems (including drones), etc. The future appears to be even more promising. Gartner, Inc. recently published its Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017, which highlighted that creating systems that can learn, adapt, and potentially act autonomously will be a major battleground for technology vendors.

The challenge for NASA is to effectively leverage recent developments, to predict future trends in academia and the commercial sector, and to use this information to develop a new strategic plan for investing in autonomy for future NASA science missions. The plan would include more than just matching existing mission requirements with current technologies: new push technologies should also be considered, in which anticipation of future capabilities in autonomy can help define future missions.

One of the key goals of the workshop is for participants to think big in terms of new mission concepts that would only be possible through the use of advanced autonomy and robotic systems. The workshop will also serve to increase awareness of current trends and developments, such that informed decisions can be made. Armed with such knowledge, an important outcome of the workshop will be to determine how the Agency's overall strategy for future science missions might be advanced by allowing autonomy to break current assumptions.


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Time Description
8:30am Welcome and Introduction
8:45am “SMD 101 and focus on technology” (Michael Seablom)
9:15am “Autonomy in NASA’s Technology Roadmaps” (Terry Fong)
9:45am “Autonomous Vehicles, Health Care, and Space” (Maarten Sierhuis)
10:15am Break (15 minutes)
10:30am Lightning Talks (2 minutes each)
  • Ariel Deutsch
  • Darlene Lim
  • Harry Partridge
  • Issa Nesnas
  • Jean-Pierre de la Croix
  • Jeff Sheehy
  • Jeremy Frank
  • Kai Goebel
  • Michael Furlong
  • Neerav Shah
  • Peter Hughes
  • Tsengdar Lee
11:15am Breakout #1 ("pull") - Mission Overviews (5 minutes each)
  • Earth Science (Mike Little)
  • Europa (Carolyn Mercer)
  • Heliophysics (Larry Kepko)
  • Outer Planets (Becky Castano)
  • Venus (Gary Hunter)
11:45am Breakout #1 - Groups (120 minutes including lunch)
1:45pm Breakout #1 - Discussion (45 minutes)
2:30pm Breakout #2 ("push") - Technology Overviews (5 minutes each)
  • Intelligent Constellations (Jacqueline LeMoigne)
  • Mixed-initiative Planning (John Bresina)
  • Reactive Science (Butler Hine)
  • Robuts Perception (Uland Wong)
  • Uncertainty Handling (Brian Coltin)
3:00pm Breakout #2 - Groups (90 minutes)
4:30pm Breakout #2 - Discussion (45 minutes)
5:15pm Summary