Nanoelectronics and Computing

Biologically inspired neural nets have been developed in laboratory demonstrations that allow computers to rapidly account for loss of aircraft control elements, understand the resulting aerodynamics, and then teach the pilot or autopilot how to avoid the loss of the vehicle and crew by an innovative use of the remaining aerodynamic control. Such approaches, coupled with the advances in computing power anticipated from nanoelectronics, will revolutionize the way aerospacecraft deal with condition-based maintenance, aborts, and recovery from serious in-flight anomalies. While aircraft do not require electronic devices that can tolerate the space radiation environment, spacecraft exploration for the Space Science and HEDS Enterprises, e.g., vehicles exploring Mars, the outer planets, and their moons, will require such capabilities. NASA mission planners view such capability as enabling them to conduct in-situ science (without real-time Earth operators), where huge amounts of data must be processed, converted to useful information, and then sent as knowledge to Earth without the need for large bandwidth communication systems. A longer-term vision incorporates the added complexity of morphing devices, circuits, and systems whose characteristics and functionalities may be modified in flight. NASA will support work at the underlying device level, in which new device configurations with new functionalities may be created through intra-device switching.

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