MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109 TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011
Contact: John G. Watson
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 6, 1999
FUTURISTIC SOFTWARE DEMONSTRATED ON DEEP SPACE 1 WINS NASA AWARD
Remote Agent, the first artificial intelligence software in
history to command a spacecraft, recently was named co-winner of
NASA's 1999 Software of the Year award. Remote Agent shared the
honor with Genoa, a software package that can predict aging and
failure of materials, including those used in airplanes, cars,
engines and bridges.
Award winners, judged on innovation, impact and usability,
were selected from a field of 50 entries representing more than
150 corporations, universities and government laboratories.
NASA scientists say the Remote Agent artificial intelligence
used on NASA's Deep Space 1 is the precursor for self-aware,
self-controlled and self-operated robots, exploring rovers and
Over three days last May, Remote Agent controlled Deep Space
1, a feat previously accomplished only in science fiction. The
software package took command of Deep Space 1 during a flight
experiment, and the artificial intelligence more than met
expectations. The software detected, diagnosed and fixed
problems, showing that it can make decisions to keep a mission on
"This technology will allow us to pursue Solar System
exploration missions that only a few years ago would have been
considered too elaborate, too costly or too dependent on teams of
Earth-bound controllers," said Dr. Doug Bernard, Remote Agent
manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA.
"The Remote Agent approach to spacecraft autonomy signals
the dawn of a new era in space exploration," said Dr. Pandu
Nayak, deputy manager of Remote Agent development the NASA Ames
Research Center, Moffett Field, CA. "Remote Agent will enable
new classes of missions and more effective use of existing
resources, and it will enable today's ground operations teams to
operate significantly more missions." Remote Agent and its
components are already being considered for a variety of NASA
missions, he said.
Experts from JPL and Ames pooled their expertise to conduct
the Remote Agent experiment, designed to push the limits of
spacecraft autonomy. Their efforts proved that this sophisticated
artificial intelligence software is capable of commanding the
spacecraft with "high-level" goals, such as "communicate with the
Earth on the agreed-upon schedule" or "fire the main engine as
needed to stay on the desired trajectory."
To demonstrate Remote Agent's versatility, the tests threw
unique challenges in the software's path: scientists created four
simulated failures designed to test Remote Agent's abilities.
During one of the simulated failures, the spacecraft's camera
appeared to be stuck in the "on" position. In response, Remote
Agent formulated and executed a new plan that accounted for the
fact that the camera could not be turned off, thus impacting
total spacecraft power availability.
An Internet web page contains the log of events from Deep
Space 1 during the ambitious artificial intelligence test:
Launched October 24, 1998, Deep Space 1 has validated 12 new
technologies, including Remote Agent, so scientists can
confidently use them during science missions of the 21st century.
The project has exceeded all of its technology validation success
The other software co-winner, is Genoa, a Progressive
Failure Analysis Software System developed at the NASA Glenn
Research Center at Lewis Field in Cleveland, OH. Genoa is used
to model aging and failure in structural materials, including
high-tech alloys and ceramics.
The event is cosponsored by the NASA Inventions and
Contributions Board and the NASA Chief Information Officer. NASA
officials will officially present the awards at special
ceremonies later this year. Information about the winning team
and other finalists is available from:
Remote Agent was developed at JPL and at the NASA Ames
Research Center. Deep Space 1 is managed for NASA's Office of
Space Science, Washington, DC, by JPL, a division of the
California Institute of Technology. JPL is a division of the
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.