The second edition of the AI Moonshot Challenge
looks at the Earth, but also Space

The 2nd edition of the AI Moonshot Challenge, an international competition that promotes the application of artificial intelligence to satellite data, was launched this Thursday during Web Summit. Applications for projects under the theme “A Sustainable Space for a Sustainable Earth”
will be open until May 2022.

When the AI ​​Moonshot Challenge debuted in 2019, the challenge was to find solutions for monitoring waste (particularly plastic) in the oceans. In 2021, the international competition, organized by the Portuguese Space Agency – Portugal Space and by Unbabel, continues to focus on Earth, but now also looks at Space. With the themeA Sustainable Space for a Sustainable Earth”, the 2nd edition of the AI ​​Moonshot Challenge was launched this Thursday, November 4th, during the last day of Web Summit.

Broader in scope, the second edition of the AI ​​Moonshot Challenge continues to explore the potential of both Artificial Intelligence (AI) and satellite data as tools to develop innovative solutions and help solve global challenges. The focus is on sustainability.

In 2021, the AI ​​Moonshot Challenge proposes three major thematic areas: monitoring and preservation of land resources (focusing on the development of a carbon-free society); Ocean and water resources in the context of climate change; and Space Debris. A research prize, of up to 500 thousand euros, will be awarded to the winning project(s), to be developed and implemented in Portugal.

As part of the launch, the application submission period was also opened. It will run until the end of May 2022 and proposals will be evaluated between June and October of the same year. The finalist teams will have the opportunity to pitch during the 2022 edition of Web Summit, during which the winner(s) will be known.

Organized by the Portuguese Space Agency – Portugal Space and by Unbabel, the AI ​​Moonshot Challenge is only possible with the support of the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), the National Innovation Agency (ANI), the partnership of the European Space Agency (ESA) and, Web Summit and the collaboration of the Directorate-General for the Territory, BUPi, GeoSAT, and the Air Centre.



Space, Earth and Artificial Intelligence: how are they related?

On a daily basis, there are a number of services that benefit from space technology (Earth Observation): they improve urban mobility through Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS); allow weather forecasting; help manage resources such as drinking water; and help monitor forest fires or optimize agricultural activity in a sustainable way, for example. All this is possible because of an infrastructure of satellites that generate large amounts of valuable data. The range of possibilities can then be expanded due to the most recent developments in Artificial Intelligence. AI will be a key technology for translating data into useful information that, in turn, is applied to everyday situations.

However, it is necessary to ensure that access to space and the use of data from satellites are carried out in a sustainable way — especially when there is a continuous increase in the amount of space junk.

That’s why, this year, the Portuguese Space Agency – Portugal Space and Unbabel continue to search for the best solutions that use Artificial Intelligence as a vehicle for solving global problems focusing on the sustainability of resources, not only on Earth but also in Space. This theme is a key point in the activity of the Portuguese Space Agency – Portugal Space, as is Space Security, mainly with regards to Space Meteorology and Debris/Space Cleaning.

Thus, the AI ​​Moonshot Challenge seeks innovative ideas for:

Sustainable Space: how can Artificial Intelligence contribute to managing and monitoring space debris? There are at least 700,000 pieces of debris currently orbiting the earth that pose a threat to space assets and could compromise future missions and present services. Here, ideas are sought on the use of AI for collision avoidance and space debris reduction.

Sustainable Earth: How to use AI and satellite data to develop solutions to map and monitor the territory and optimize the preservation of resources? As an example: ideas that allow improvements in the mapping of land use and occupation (LULC), which are essential to prevent fires and improve resource management, are encouraged. Still, on planet Earth, and in continuity with the previous edition, the AI Moonshot Challenge is also open to initiatives that address the mapping, monitoring and management of water resources and the sustainability of the Oceans from the perspective of climate change.

The competition is aimed at specialists, students, and entrepreneurs from different geographical and academic backgrounds. The projects must be carried out in Portugal and in partnership with Portuguese institutions.

Portugal Space
4 of November, 2021