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NASA currently spends a huge amount of money on labor. It takes hundreds of people in Florida to launch a rocket, and hundreds of people in Houston to control a spacecraft. Automating these processes will help save money. Moreover, in the future, NASA will send people to distant destinations such as Mars. Traveling at the speed of light, communications between Earth and Mars take up to 22 minutes, one-way. The current approach of controlling spacecraft using voice communications from Houston will no longer work. Hence, new software is being developed that will be used on-board the spacecraft to enable the astronauts to be autonomous. That means that the astronauts, working with the software, will be able to make decisions without interacting with anyone on Earth.

Today, faults on ISS are diagnosed by large teams of experts in Houston. That will not be feasible with large speed-of-light communication delays. Automated fault diagnosis and response will therefore be required to enable human missions to deep-space destinations. Water recycling systems (WRSs) are a critical component of the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) of human-rated space missions. The WRS is a representative ECLSS testbed that permits long-duration testing of next-generation WRS technology that is under consideration for human spaceflight missions.

Like all engineered systems, the WRS is prone to standard degradation due to regular use, as well as other faults. Current procedures require significant crew effort for inspecting, repairing, and maintenance of the WRS to ensure its safe and correct operation. Autonomous diagnostics and prognostics will reduce the crew effort needed while improving the reliability of water recovery systems in future spacecraft and habitats.

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