Additional research is needed on sensors (e.g., microelectrical mechanical systems [MEMS]), machine perception, and the transfer between humans and machines of information gained from situational awareness.
Information processing needs were described by Robert T. Savely, chief scientist of the Information Processing Directorate. NASA will need a full-spectrum supercomputing environment consisting of high-speed processors, mass storage, high-performance networks, and visualization hardware and software for extended space exploration by humans. For example, high-performance graphics hardware and software could enable the analysis and display of data in real time, so that multiple users could simultaneously have access to information and quickly identify new patterns and relationships among complex data. DNA computing, cellular engineering, and living neuronal nets could provide the basis for ultracomputers. Hybrid interfaces might be used to combine biological materials with silicon-based computation.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) work on ultrascale computing may suggest biological concepts that would be useful in information processing on NASA missions. For example, swarm computing, parallel computing, and quantum computing may lead to the design of materials that “think.” DARPA's projects on DNA computing involve the development of technologies for performing computations at the molecular level. Those on cellular engineering exploit bioengineering of one-celled organisms for computation and low-cost manufacturing of computational elements. The neural networks projects involve the in vitro growth of neuronal materials to synthesize neural networks that interface directly with electronic circuits.