Frontier Development Lab – AI for Earth and Space: Call for researchers and experts

Frontier Development Lab – AI for Earth and Space: Call for researchers and experts

Press Release From: SETI Institute
Posted: Thursday February 3rd 2022

Frontier Development Lab (FDL) is entering its 7th year with a call for applications and the search for an expanded faculty. This year will be the largest and most ambitious for the program to date, with more teams tackling challenges in space, earth science and energy.

FDL is a public-private partnership between NASA, DOE, SETI Institute, Trillium Technologies, the European Space Agency, and leaders in commercial AI, space exploration, and Earth science, including Google Cloud, NVIDIA, Intel, IBM and Microsoft. FDL applies advanced AI and machine learning techniques to fundamental research problems to push the frontiers of science and develop new tools to help solve critical challenges. FDL programs benefit our partner stakeholders and all of humanity. The application deadline is April 3, 2022.

“FDL is an amazing example of how public/private partnerships and interdisciplinary skills can combine to achieve extraordinary results,” said Bill Diamond, CEO of the SETI Institute. “But these results also stem from the efforts of extraordinary researchers and mentors. We are excited to launch our most ambitious FDL sprint this year and invite you to join us!”

“AI is becoming a powerful partner for space exploration. AI is also proving to be a crucial ally for the management of our planetary spacecraft, Earth. If you are interested in working on problems that will help define the future of our species, on and off the world, so we would love to hear from you,” said FDL Director James Parr.

FDL fills knowledge gaps in space science by pairing machine learning experts with domain experts. Research teams are supported by computational data and guidance from our private sector partners for an intensive eight-week paid research sprint over the summer between June and August. Final challenges for 2022 will be announced in March, but research areas include:

Lunar exploration: We are building on FDL’s growing partnership with the Luxembourg Space Agency (LSA) to support this decade’s ambitious lunar exploration goals. Can physics-informed neural networks (PINNs) replace traditional lunar mapping methods to support rover traverses and human operations at the lunar poles?

Space Medicine Team Badge

Space medicine: For the first time in half a century, astronauts will soon be living and working for extended periods of time in deep space – whether on the Gateway, the Artemis missions to the Moon or perhaps, in the 2030s, to Mars . We know that zero gravity and increased solar and cosmic radiation combine to create many challenges for long-range mission operations. Can ML techniques such as causal inference unlock powerful tools to unlock interventions at the molecular level?

Astrobiology Team Badge

Astrobiology: Finding the ingredients of extraterrestrial life (sometimes called “biosignatures”) is a task well suited to ML, whether sifting through vast troves of data or simplifying laborious workflows. Can ML help develop better definitions of “life” to support rover-based exploration or large-scale, all-sky surveys?

ML Onboard team badge

Integrated ML: As ML-enabled processors become more power-efficient and radiation-tolerant, the opportunity opens up for more intelligence and autonomy on our spacecraft – as recently demonstrated by the TRN (Terrain Relative Navigation) pipeline. performed on NASA JPL’s Perseverance mission. Can we use ML to develop smart constellations for more efficient disaster response, planetary management, or deep space exploration?

Climate adaptation

Climate adaptation: Adapting our civilization’s key infrastructure to a rapidly warming climate will inevitably be at the top of our species’ “to do” list for decades to come. Can ML help probe geomechanical data to future-proof our energy grid or provide insights into carbon sequestration strategies? Can ML improve our decisions about building and managing the utilities of the future?

Disaster Response Team Badge

Disastrous answer: FDL has already shown how ML can support disaster response – from rapid flood mapping and flood warning to wildfire ignition, predicting fire spread and lightning rate . However, there is a lot of work to enable operational and reliable systems. Can ML better support disaster response, from resilience planning to just-in-time information and post-disaster recovery?

Energy Futures Team Badge

Energy Futures: ML proves to be a powerful tool for aided discovery and has already proven to be a powerful tool in drug discovery and engineering. Can techniques such as NLP (Natural Language Processing), Reinforcement Learning (RL) and genetic selection algorithms be used to accelerate the development and management of zero-emission energy solutions?

Earth Science Team Badge

Earth Science: Over the past decade, there has been a quiet revolution in Earth Observation (EO) technologies, with constellations of Earth-orbiting satellites now providing a day-to-day view of our planet from multiple vantage points. and a wide variety of instruments. Can we combine this deluge of data with ML to uncover exciting new opportunities to understand our planet’s fundamental causal processes, from atmospheric interactions to hydrology, to the origins of drought and other indicators of health? critical ecosystems?

Live Twin Team Badge

Live Twin: Earth System Predictability (ESP) has become a key “moonshot” for simulation science and high performance computing (HPC). FDL has already taken small steps towards this vision, showing the potential of ML to emulate empirical models with greater efficiency, often achieving HPC parity with a fraction of the power. Can ML take the state of the art one step further by creating a digital twin of our planet’s systems – a real-time pairing, a so-called “Live Twin”?

Heliophysics Team Badge

Heliophysics: Our local star remains the greatest influence on our planet, and its behavior is the most important unknown variable for deep space exploration and habitability. FDL has built a large portfolio of ML pipelines, ranging from thermospheric drag prediction to star spots on distant stars. Can we use ML to better understand and predict the Sun’s influence on climate and make deep space exploration safer?

More information about the FDL program, partners, and past work can be found at Please read our Why Apply and FAQs on the website before applying – Those interested in learning more about faculty positions can contact us at [email protected]

Contact details:
Rebecca McDonald
Communications Director
SETI Institute
[email protected]

About the SETI Institute
Founded in 1984, the SETI Institute is a nonprofit, multidisciplinary research and education organization whose mission is to lead humanity’s quest to understand the origins and prevalence of life and intelligence in universe and share this knowledge with the world. Our research spans the physical and biological sciences and draws on expertise in data analytics, machine learning and advanced signal detection technologies. The SETI Institute is a distinguished research partner for industry, academia, and government agencies, including NASA and NSF.

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