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New Zealand’s AI-Powered Space and Health Initiatives

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The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly indispensable across various domains. In a recent development in New Zealand, a groundbreaking AI-assisted tool is set to revolutionise astronaut selection and enhance clinical decision-making.

This transformative initiative stems from a collaborative partnership between the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the renowned US space company. This innovative project is poised to have a far-reaching impact on space exploration and healthcare and clinical advancements.

Under the visionary leadership of Dr Brian Russell, a pioneering project is underway to introduce a groundbreaking tool that will redefine the monitoring of astronaut health and performance. This initiative marks a significant stride forward in the quest to revolutionise space exploration and healthcare.

This project represents a pivotal milestone within a larger initiative, being one of the two projects chosen for initial feasibility studies as part of the Memorandum of Understanding inked between the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and a U.S. space company in 2022.

As the project advances, it holds the potential to reshape the future of astronaut selection and space missions and the landscape of healthcare and clinical decision-making, with profound implications for both domains.

“This collaboration offers a unique avenue for us to delve into promising, untapped segments within New Zealand’s burgeoning space industry,” stated Robyn Henderson, Policy Director at MBIE.

She added that this undertaking promises to enhance the astronaut selection procedures and healthcare monitoring in space and extend its benefits to individuals on Earth far from immediate medical assistance, including remote communities in New Zealand and researchers stationed in Antarctica.

The system will engage with prospective astronaut candidates or currently active astronauts undergoing recertification. Its primary function is to detect any medical conditions that fall beyond the established health criteria.

Subsequently, it will streamline the procedure for evaluating or mitigating medical risks by flagging the necessity for additional tests or medical interventions, thus ensuring that individuals meet the requisite health standards for space travel or mission participation.

This advanced tool aims to provide a comprehensive and automated approach to health assessment in the astronaut selection and recertification process, improving efficiency and precision.

AI-facilitated collaboration between humans and machines holds immense potential to extend human expertise, particularly in critical scenarios where access to a team of experts may be limited. Addressing this challenge in the context of space missions benefits space operations and extends its impact to other remote environments and communities,” Brian emphasised.

The project is currently focused on integrating the AI system with medical personnel and astronauts, including the development of the tool. It will undergo rigorous testing, including laboratory and field trials in collaboration with US space company and a broader audience assessment.

Dr Russell’s initiative aligns with Goal 4 of the recently unveiled Aotearoa New Zealand Aerospace Strategy, which focuses on actively supporting space exploration. Goal 4 aims to leverage New Zealand’s existing strengths to develop high-value solutions that bolster a sustained presence in space, reaffirming the country’s commitment to advancing space exploration and technology.

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