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Montreal researchers developing AI that could help us settle the moon


In the halls of Polytechnique Montréal, the sight of an articulated robot climbing the stairs barely distracts students, who are accustomed to being surrounded by futuristic technology.

"I can actually tell it where I want it to go," explains engineering professor Giovanni Beltrame, demonstrating other robots he uses with his newly assembled research unit.

The unit, called Astrolith, is developing a type of artificial intelligence that could one day contribute to lunar exploration.

Astrolith makes computers and software that can be adapted to various exploration devices like drones and robots.

"We are putting together a lot of professors, 18 professors in fact, with different expertise, so we can move forward lunar engineering in view of permanent settlement on the moon and beyond," Beltrame said.

The last time Americans took a rover to the moon was in 1972.

But the race for lunar exploration is heating up again. Several countries, including Japan this month, have landed lunar modules.

Americans and Canadians are also participating in manned exploration over the next two years as part of the Artemis missions.

Except this time, the scientific world has much more ambitious goals -- and this is where the team at Polytechnique comes into play.

"In the future, I would say the near future, mining will be a thing because it's very important to build settlements on the moon, so you need to mine your own resources there," said Beltrame.

The engineering in development by Astrolith could even change how we exploit our own planet: "It's also possible that mining in space might be more advantageous than mining on Earth due to the environmental effects of mining here."

The sensors being developed are so advanced that the cameras on the robots can map out their environment in 3D and respond accordingly.

Beltrame is surrounded by young masters and PhD students eager to rediscover the lunar ambitions that drove NASA in the 1960s.

"Actually, it would be my dream to live on the moon, but that's a little early for that. But we're working on it," said Astrolith member Guillaume Ricard.

It's a new space age for a team striving to carve its own legacy onto the lunar surface. Top Stories

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