Can AI find extraterrestrial life? NASA’s Steve Chien delivers keynote to kick off AI in Action Week.

Steve Chien’s contributions to space exploration started relatively close to home. In the early 2000s, the distinguished researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory helped develop weather satellites that used artificial intelligence to track wildfires, monitor volcanoes and allocate relief aid for natural disasters.

Now, his greatest ambition is to take AI beyond our solar system — and for it to help in the search for extraterrestrial life.

“That’s the ultimate challenge of AI in space. To go and hunt for life in another star system. That’s what keeps me at NASA,” he said.

On Monday, Chien, who has developed autonomous systems for robotic spacecraft including the Mars Rover and Earth Observing One, delivered a keynote speech to open Northeastern University’s first-ever AI in Action Week, running April 1-5 and jointly hosted by the university’s Office of the Provost and Office of the Chancellor, with support from the Institute of Experiential AI.

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Photo by Matthew Modoono