Accelerate Digital 2021 is a five-week, digital event that started this May. Let us introduce to you some insights from one of the guests of that conference – Ron Thompson, NASA’s chief data officer and deputy digital transformation officer, shared by him during his interview with Pure Storage CEO Charles Giancarlo.
“I believe there are many advances in technology that we could bring to bear today, but the largest hurdle is doing something differently than we have done in the past. The technology space we live in is advancing almost daily.”
Thompson also said that machine learning and AI technologies are also playing an expanding role at NASA, and pointed to the AI-driven capabilities of the Perseverance rover vehicle that NASA sent to Mars as part of its 2020 mission.
“Did you know that used artificial intelligence to land? It wasn’t controlled from earth … This was actually an autonomous robotic vehicle that landed on its own through artificial intelligence, and it learned, and it still is continuing to learn while it’s on Mars, and, and we’re hoping [for] many, many years of the lifetime of discovery through that mission,” he said.
However, AI and machine learning, he said, are areas where NASA is “just scratching the surface.”
Thompson also gave an enthusiastic reading of the agency’s use of RPA, saying, “we’re very excited about that because we can elevate what our talent is using right now with manual processes, and really look at bringing in robotics process automation to automate and take the human out of the routine task and elevate them to more cerebral work that we need to do.”
Asked about digital transformation goals for NASA over the next couple of years, Thompson talked about the agency’s goal of accelerating its time to market by 25% over the next three to five years.
“We’ve gotten together over the past nine months, and worked with our core missions and programs … to go and get behind actually developing enterprise-wide capabilities that will advance and accelerate, everything that NASA does,” he said. “We’re behind this, this is an all-in effort, and something that’s absolutely quantifiable and understandable across all of our domains in NASA.”
Elsewhere during his remarks, Thompson talked about the core tenets of digital transformation at the agency. “NASA has embarked on a digital transformation effort that really transforms our work, workforce, and workplace, and data is at the core of that transformation,” Thompson said.