Tuesday November 22, 2016

NASA Program Deploys Deep Learning to Ward Off Asteroid Attack

NASA’s efforts to find life in the far reaches of the universe draw significant attention. Less known is a recent agency program to prevent asteroids from ending life here on Earth. Three teams of researchers using GPU-powered deep learning spent the summer tackling asteroid-related challenges at NASA’s Frontier Development Lab, in partnership with the SETI Institute, a nonprofit organization devoted to researching life in the universe. The FDL’s work was made possible by an "applied research accelerator" آ— a GPU-powered platform that helps researchers accomplish work that used to take six months or more in just six weeks. The FDL itself is a response to the White House’s Asteroid Grand Challenge, an ongoing program that aims to get researchers to "find all asteroid threats to human populations and know what to do about them." The emergence of GPU computing has enabled organizations like NASA and SETI to analyze large datasets that are critical to the space program. FDL Director James Parr says the lab’s goal was to approach the challenge in two ways: apply machine learning techniques and technologies to planetary defense, and demonstrate the viability of the applied research accelerator to industrialize significant breakthroughs quickly. A group of 12 standout graduate students was chosen for the internship, during which they were housed at NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, and worked on their respective projects at a nearby SETI facility.