Can robots detect signs of life on other planets? The answer now is yes, thanks to a groundbreaking AI algorithm that is changing the game for space exploration.
While spacecraft on interstellar missions are equipped with sensors designed to detect molecules that could potentially signify the existence of extraterrestrial life, a significant obstacle arises from the fact that these organic molecules have a tendency to degrade over time. This degradation poses a formidable challenge for contemporary technology when it comes to their accurate identification.
Scientists have come up with an amazing way using AI to find tiny differences in the way molecules are arranged, even in really old samples from hundreds of millions of years ago. And guess what? It is super good at it, getting things right 9 times out of 10, as per the latest research.
In the future, this AI system could become vital for space robots on the moon, Mars and spacecraft around worlds like Enceladus and Europa. Scientist Robert Hazen explained their approach, aiming to uncover the unique chemical rules of life, which could help us understand its origins and detect life on other planets.
This revolutionary method is based on the idea that the chemical processes responsible for creating and functioning of biomolecules differ markedly from those governing non-living substances. Biomolecules, such as amino acids, hold clues about how they were formed, and this principle is thought to extend to potential extraterrestrial life forms. Across various planets, life could use specific compounds more abundantly for its daily activities, creating a distinct chemical fingerprint that distinguishes it from non-living matter. Researchers highlight that AI can effectively identify and quantify these differences.