Could Space Be the Next Frontier for Transportation and Logistics?
By Dr. Kandis Y. Wyatt, PMP
Faculty Member, School of Business, American Military University
We have transportation and logistics utilizing land, air, sea, rail and pipeline. Now, is it time for transportation and logistics to enter the realm of space?
The successful May 30th launch of SpaceX proved that the possibilities for new technology are endless and reinvigorated the space industry. James Rodgers of Fox News commented, “The launch is the first time a private company, rather than a national government, has sent astronauts into orbit.”
Get started on your Space Studies Degree at American Military University.
The industry of space transport has a long history. Elizabeth Howell of Space.com notes: “Space transport has been ongoing for the past 50 years, starting when Commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin formed the American crew that landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on July 20, 1969.”
However, the race to be first is still prevalent in the commercial space industry. One critical factor is the ability to use artificial intelligence (AI) to aid human intervention.
Artificial Intelligence and How We Use It
VynZ Research defines artificial intelligence as “the ability of machines to think and operate in the same manner as humans.” AI is not new. Most Americans have used automated teller machines (ATMs) and automated phone assistants.
Similarly, most people use artificial intelligence products such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri on their mobile devices. These AI products process informational requests and allow users to obtain information quickly.
A 2019 Congressional report, “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work,” states, “The strengths of current AI systems include classification and prediction, tasks that are repeatable, that do not need an explanation for how a decision was made, tasks for which a certain amount of error is acceptable and tasks that do not require a high amount of mobility or dexterity.”
How AI Can Help with Space Transportation and Logistics
So how can artificial intelligence help with current and future modes of transportation and logistics for space?
For land, sea, rail, air, and pipeline routes, AI is used to track packages, forecast optimal distribution routes, and optimize loads by bundling complementary items. Autonomous vehicles are common for land, sea, rail, and air, and they use AI to safely transport people and packages from location to location.
The ability to track people and packages at all times is essential. For example, Disney World uses Magic Bands with Radio Frequency ID tags (RFID) technology to track customer activities. This technology is also used to streamline activities that have extended wait times, such as purchasing meals or waiting in line for rides.
This same technology can be adapted for space transport. Imagine having a wristband that relays health-related information in real-time to a database that cross-checks an astronaut’s vital signs with medical records. Imagine an astronaut being able to prick one finger, take a small blood sample and have the results processed in minutes from a location that is hundreds of thousands of miles away.
Similarly, a person on the ground could use robotics to control, maneuver and fix problems on a space station in real-time. Even voice technology could be utilized to ensure cybersecurity measures in space are not compromised. These are just a few of the numerous possibilities because AI includes machine learning, cybersecurity and robotics.
Preparing for Future Jobs in Science and Technology
The Congressional report also predicted that “Sixty-five percent of children entering elementary school today, in the year 2019, will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that currently do not exist.”
But how do you prepare students for science and technology jobs that do not exist today? As the integration of these AI technologies transforms work and creates new jobs, there will be a significant need to ensure we are training workers to succeed at all levels.
The integration of current technologies at all educational levels — from K-12 to post-secondary education — and into daily activities are essential to acclimate the U.S. population to artificial intelligence. Teach-the-teacher and train-the-trainer programs will be essential to transfer current, relevant AI knowledge to both today’s and tomorrow’s workforce.
Hands-on training needs to be infused into the virtual learning environment, so that AI will become second nature for all U.S. citizens. As we look to future possibilities in the space industry, transportation and logistics cannot move forward without advances in artificial intelligence.
About the Author
Dr. Kandis Y. Wyatt, PMP, is a professor at American Military University and has 20 years of experience managing projects that specialize in supply chain management.