“There is a realization that the time to action is shrinking. Now it’s microseconds.”
Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is starting to think about how to automate many spacecraft systems and outsource critical decisions to an on-board computer. Presently, with the International Space Station, flight controllers on Earth monitor the spacecraft’s overall health continually, and flight directors relay information to astronauts on board when problems occur.
But what happens when humans fly into deep space? Although astronauts are unlikely to venture beyond the Earth-Moon system before the late 2030s—if then—when they do, they will confront significant time delays. At some points of the orbits between Earth and Mars, the one-way time delay is as long as 20 minutes, making real-time conversations and problem-solving impossible.