Alexa will be the first voice assistant available beyond Earth. Amazon and Lockheed Martin have revealed NASA will carry Alexa to space aboard the Artemis I mission launching later in 2022. While that flight is uncrewed, the companies are planning a "virtual crew experience" at NASA's Johnson Space Center that will let people in Mission Control (including students and special guests) simulate conversations between the digital helper and astronauts.
This is decidedly more sophisticated than the Alexa on your Echo speaker. Alexa will have access to the Orion spacecraft's telemetry data, answer "thousands" of mission-related questions and even control devices like cabin lighting. Amazon has finessed its algorithms to consider Orion's acoustics. Connectivity in space shouldn't be an issue, either. The Callisto technology payload carrying Alexa will both allow local voice control (even with no internet access) and access the Deep Space Network to provide news from home.
The initiative isn't just about bragging rights or bringing a Star Trek-style computer to life. Amazon will use the lessons learned from Artemis I to improve Alexa both for future missions and for everyday users, particularly those who have little to no internet connectivity. The company is also adding new Alexa experiences that will give you access to Artemis I's telemetry, imagery, video (including the launch livestream) and notifications for key mission milestones.
Amazon is hoping to foster the next wave of space explorers in the process. It's introducing an Alexa for Astronauts program that provides access to the virtual crew experience, digital tours of the Johnson Space Center and a STEM curriculum built withe the help of the National Science Teaching Association and Mobile CSP. The move helps Amazon burnish its reputation, of course, but it could be worthwhile if it encourages more students to pursue space industry careers.