Evolution Coming to Space Race

Engineers apply natural-selection algorithm to flight paths for spacecraft
By Sam Gale Rosen,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 9, 2008 2:33 PM CST
This view of Saturn taken by cameras aboard the Cassini spacecraft was released by NASA in January. The new algorithm yielded a flightplan similar to what was eventually chosen for the Cassini mission....   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Engineers have devised a way of coming up with flight paths for space missions by using the laws of natural selection, Space.com reports. An algorithm called "differential evolution" treats different paths as individual organisms, which then "mutate," and the best solutions survive to the next generation. Engineers behind differential evolution hope NASA and other agencies consider using the method in future.

"I think it'd be nice if NASA would like to put it in their toolbox," one says. As a test, the creators of differential evolution used the algorithm to come up with an ideal flight plan for the goals of the Cassini mission to Saturn. "The Cassini results were actually very close to what was actually flown," says engineer Craig Kluever.