London: Scientists are designing spacecraft that can act by themselves and reason like human beings.
It is a concept that had fatal consequences for astronauts in "2001: A Space Odyssey" after their computer running on artificial intelligence (AI) reasoned it had to kill them in order to continue the mission.
British engineers, supported by European Space Agency (ESA), are developing control systems that can be used in satellites, robotic exploration vehicles and spacecraft capable of controlling themselves.
The space vehicles will be able to learn, identify problems, adapt during missions, carry out repairs and take their own decisions about how best to carry out a task, the Telegraph reports.
Details of the research have emerged as ESA prepares to launch the second of its Automated Transport Vehicles (ATV) to deliver supplies to the International Space Station later this month.
The ATV2, which was designed and built by space company Astrium, will follow a pre-programmed route to the space station before using on-board sensors and collision-avoidance systems to dock safely space station.
ESA has also revealed it has plans to build its first spaceship capable of carrying humans into space and returning them safely to the earth.
Sandor Veres at Southampton University, who has been leading the project to develop AI control systems, said the technology could eventually find its way into spacecraft used to transport human crew.