Alexa, Take Me To The Moon! Why Amazon’s Voice Assistant Will Become ‘Callisto’ On NASA’s Upcoming Trip Around The Moon


Sometime in February or March 2022 NASA will re-ignite its pursuit of crewed landings on the Moon’s surface after a 50 year hiatus—and Alexa will be along for the ride.

It won’t be until 2024-2025’s Artemis-3 mission that the first woman and the first person of color will land on the lunar surface, but in advance of that mission is Artemis-1.

It’s a technology trial that will see the agency test its Orion spacecraft, its Space Launch System rocket and the European Service Model (ESM), but that’s not all that will be put through its paces during the autonomous three-week to 62 miles above and 40,000 miles beyond the Moon (and back).

Amazon and Cisco has announced that the Alexa voice assistant and WebEx video calling platforms, respectively, will be built-in to the Orion capsule as an all-new platform called “Callisto.”

The long-term plan is to allow face-to-face interaction between crew, command center and their loved ones.

But for Artemis-1 mission anyone on Earth will be able to utter “Alexa, take me to the Moon!” to get instant updates on the mission’s progress.

MORE FROM FORBESArtemis 1: In 100 Days NASA’s Long-Awaited Moon Mission Could Blast-Off. Here’s Everything You Need To Know

Callisto is a technology demonstration between Orion’s maker, Lockheed Martin, Amazon and Cisco to create and integrate a “human-machine interface” so they can learn how future astronauts could benefit from far-field voice technology, AI and tablet-based video collaboration.

Far-field voice technology is used to recognize voices in noisy environments.

Callisto will demonstrate how voice assistants, video calling and “whiteboarding” (collaborating and brainstorming) can be done in deep space. 

Don’t expect to see Callisto as an app on your smartphone anytime soon—this is a custom-made hardware and software integration designed to be offline. In an effort to allow astronauts to be more self-reliant in deep space without having to call-up Houston continually, Alexa will be able to work without an internet connection.

That’s obviously not the case for video conferencing platform Webex, which will be tested on a tablet using NASA’s Deep Space Network, an array of giant radio antennas on Earth that typically supports its interplanetary spacecraft missions.

For Alexa, it’s a return to its roots. “The Star Trek computer was part of our original inspiration for Alexa, so it’s exciting and humbling to see our vision for ambient intelligence come to life on board Orion,” said Aaron Rubenson, vice president of Amazon Alexa.

“We’re proud to be working with Lockheed Martin to push the limits of voice technology and AI, and we hope Alexa’s role in the mission helps inspire future scientists, astronauts and engineers who will define this next era of space exploration.”

There is, of course, one problem—there will be no crew aboard the Artemis-1 mission. How can Callisto be properly tested? In an effort to fake remote interactions, Callisto’s developers have worked with NASA to build a virtual crew experience at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, allowing operators to interact with Callisto from the Mission Control Center.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.



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