The Verge, Jan 5, 2022
When NASA debuts its new massive deep-space rocket for the first time in the coming months, a familiar voice assistant and video teleconferencing tool will be going along for the ride. A version of Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant and Cisco’s Webex videoconferencing platform will be included on the flight to space, part of a technology demonstration to see if these tools might benefit future astronauts flying to distant destinations like the Moon and Mars.
The upcoming flight is known as Artemis I, and it’s the first test mission in a series of flights planned for NASA’s Artemis program — an initiative to send the first woman and the first person of color to the surface of the Moon. Tentatively set for March, Artemis I will mark the inaugural flight of NASA’s next-generation rocket, the Space Launch System, or SLS, a gargantuan rocket that Boeing has been developing for the last decade. The SLS is designed to launch people and cargo into deep space, with passengers riding on top of the vehicle in a new crew capsule called Orion, developed by Lockheed Martin.
For Artemis I, SLS will launch an Orion crew capsule around the Moon on a weeks-long flight — the first time the two vehicles will fly to space together. This is a critical test launch, so no people will be flying inside Orion, save for a mannequin. However, the fake passenger will have some machine companions. Lockheed Martin teamed up with Amazon and Cisco to mount a “human-machine interface” in the spot where Orion’s control panel will be in the future. Called Callisto after the companion of Artemis in Greek mythology, the box will have a voice-activated Alexa speaker, with its iconic blue ring light, and an iPad that runs Webex.
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