Broad Area Colloquium For AI-Geometry-Graphics-Robotics-Vision

Planning at 96 Million Kilometers from Earth: Challenges and Lessons

Nicola Muscettola
Computational Sciences Division
NASA Ames Research Center
Moffett Field, CA 94035-1000

Wednesday, March 1, 2000
refreshments 4:05PM, talk begins 4:15PM
TCseq201, Lecture Hall B


On May 17th, 1999, the Planner/Scheduler (PS) of the Remote Agent autonomy architecture became the first automatic planner to operate in inter-planetary space. Over a period of 4 days the Remote Agent controlled the Deep Space One spacecraft, the first mission of NASA's New Millennium program. During the experiment the Remote Agent received high-level goals from Earth. On-board the spacecraft PS produced detailed plans that achieved them. PS did do so by using a constraint-based model of the spacecraft activities and devices. The produced plan was executed on board the spacecraft without any intervention from ground controllers. Also Remote Agent demonstrated the ability of detecting device faults and reacting to them while keeping control of the spacecraft. In some fault scenarios PS was called on to generate new plans that still achieved the original goals while taking into account the degraded spacecraft capabilities.

On-board planning is a crucial capability for realizing NASA's vision of a "virtual presence" in the universe, an armada of spacecraft and rovers exploring celestial bodies in the Solar System and beyond. Autonomy technology will boost the capabilities of ground controllers to the point in which a single team will be able to operate multiple missions simultaneously. On-board autonomy will handle routine operations while ground controllers will be required only during unanticipated off-nominal situations. Also, a spacecraft that can recognize scientific phenomena, formulate new goals and adjust its plans autonomously will significantly expand the kinds of space exploration missions beyond those that are possible today.

In this talk we will discuss the PS component of the Remote Agent, its constraint-based technology and the lessons learned during the Remote Agent, particularly with respect to how to effectively use a plan during reactive execution and how to validate a planner's functionality in an operational, mission-critical application.

About the Speaker

Nicola Muscettola is lead of the Autonomy and Robotics Area in the Computational Sciences Division of the NASA Ames Research Center. He received both his Diploma di Laurea (B.S./M.S) and his Dottorato di Ricerca (Ph.D.) from the Politecnico di Milano, Milano, Italy. Before Ames he was a member of the research staff and then system scientist at the Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University. Nicola's research interests are in planning, scheduling, reactive execution, temporal reasoning, constraint propagation and planning-based method for concurrent system verification.
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Last modified: Mon Feb 28 12:00:22 PST 2000