Second, these missions operate in an uncertain environment in which the risk of failure is significant. Engineers and scientists strive to carefully evaluate these risks before sending a command sequence to a vehicle for execution. Since our approach involves automatically generating command sequences without frequent human intervention, human operators should specify to the executive what types and levels of risk are acceptable, and the executive should use models of uncertainty to generate command sequences that operate within these risk bounds, and should engage human operators for assistance, when these risks become unacceptable.
ENTERPRISE EXECUTIVE — GOAL DIRECTED, RISK AWARE Enterprise, developed by the MIT MERS group, is one instance of a goal-directed, risk-aware executive, and takes inspiration from the different roles performed by crewmembers on the bridge of the fictional starship Enterprise of the Star Trek franchise. One component of the system acts as a “captain,” making higher-level decisions to plan out the overall mission, while taking input from a second component, the “science officer,” on where and when to explore. Another component functions as a “navigator,” planning out a route to meet mission goals. A fourth component works as a “doctor,” or “engineer,” diagnosing and repairing problems autonomously. A final component acts as a “communications officer” to communicate plans, explain issues, and propose alternatives back to the scientists and operators. For example, for a Mars rover mission, human scientists could specify their science goals and priorities for a particular area being traversed. Enterprise’s science officer could identify candidate locations to observe and sample, along with estimates on the information they would provide. The captain would then come up with a plan for operating the rover for the day, while selecting locations for making high-valued observations, while consulting the navigator on how best to safely traverse between these locations, and while ensuring that the rover battery is not depleted. When executing the mission, the engineer would continuously monitor the health of the rover hardware, and would implement repairs if, for example, a science instrument or communication subsystem failed.
Annual magazine review of MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department research and educational initiatives.