Red Whittaker Gives Keynote at NIWeek 2013
Astrobotic CEO / CTO Red Whittaker is a pioneer of autonomous driving, mining, farming and now space exploration. On August 8, Whittaker gave an inspirational keynote to 4,000+ attendees at NIWeek 2013 in Austin, TX. He introduced the Griffin lander, and talked about Astrobotic’s journey to the Moon and how Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) provided by National Instruments are helping them get there. FPGAs are special computing devices that are programmed for specific applications, such as cracking a password or finding features in an image. Unlike a CPU, which can load multiple programs from memory and execute their instructions, an FPGA is repurposed by reflashing its logic fabric. FPGA programmers, or digital design engineers, control the flow of data in the device, which allows the device to perform massively parallel computations at very low clock speeds. National Instruments is a world leader in high-end FPGAs and their engineers have been working with Astrobotic to select hardware and develop computer vision algorithms for its 2015 lunar mission. The NI-Astrobotic partnership is changing the game in space computing. Their jointly developed algorithms will offer real-time Guidance, Navigation, and Control (GNC) in space at a fraction of the cost of previous missions, enabling precise, autonomous navigation to compelling but potentially unsafe destinations for science, exploration, and resource utilization. In the burgeoning commercial space sector, private enterprise innovations like those spurred by Astrobotic and NI seek to drive down the cost of operations in space. More cost-effective missions unlock opportunities for vital research, utilization of off-Earth resources such as helium-3, water, methane, and other minerals, and eventual human expansion into space. This vision demands the ability to navigate precisely and safely in space. The FPGA-based algorithms being developed by Astrobotic and NI will do just that, and be applicable in the air, below the ground, and under the sea on Earth. NI and Astrobotic are pioneering autonomy for this world and worlds beyond, and taking their customers with them.