“Alexa, how far to the Moon?” might be a question that astronauts can genuinely ask while traveling en route one day following an upcoming voice technology demonstration on the uncrewed Artemis 1 mission. Dubbed Callisto, after a favorite of the Greek goddess, Lockheed Martin is working with Amazon and Cisco to test remote communication, such as tablet-based video collaboration and whiteboarding, as well as deep space virtual assistants.
"Callisto will demonstrate a first-of-its-kind technology that could be used in the future to enable astronauts to be more self-reliant as they explore deep space," said Lisa Callahan, vice president of Commercial Civil Space for Lockheed Martin, in a statement. "Callisto is a shining example of how new partnerships with commercial technologies can be flown on Orion to benefit future human deep space missions."
Lockheed Martin designed and built the Orion spacecraft, which, on top of the Space Launch System, will one day soon take astronauts back to the Moon. For Artemis 1, expected to launch this year (no earlier than March), however, the uncrewed capsule will go on a 25-day trip, including a little jaunt around the Moon.
Callisto is a newly developed custom hardware and software that will be integrated with the Orion capsule. It allows Amazon's Alexa to work without an Internet connection (so no chance of creepy shenanigans) and Cisco’s Webex to work on a tablet that can interface to NASA’s Deep Space Network.
"The Star Trek computer was part of our original inspiration for Alexa, so it's exciting and humbling to see our vision for ambient intelligence come to life on board Orion," explained Aaron Rubenson, vice president of Amazon Alexa. "We're proud to be working with Lockheed Martin to push the limits of voice technology and AI, and we hope Alexa's role in the mission helps inspire future scientists, astronauts, and engineers who will define this next era of space exploration."
As there won’t be any astronauts on board Artemis yet the technology will be tested virtually, with the aim for these technologies to help future astronauts in their work.
"The future of technology is about igniting human potential whenever and wherever that may be – which will soon extend to the depths of space," added Jeetu Patel, executive vice president of Security and Collaboration at Cisco. "Through Callisto, Webex is enabling boundless video communications and collaboration in deep space while helping to provide the next generation with inclusive and immersive technology. This first-of-its-kind solution could one day support future crewed missions, providing face-to-face interaction between crew, command center, and loved ones."
Members of the public that own an Alexa can ask it about the mission by saying "Take me to the Moon." Hopefully, future iterations will also respond to the request “Tea, Earl Grey, Hot.”