In one of the more light-hearted scenes of Christopher Nolan's otherwise tension-filled film "Interstellar," the four Endurance astronauts are lifting off on the movie's mission to save humanity. Riding along with them is a quippy AI named TARS that jokes that it is looking forward to using them all as servants on its robot colony and wishes Matthew McConaughey's character the best of luck getting back to the ship once TARS blows him out the airlock for talking back.

Told that TARS has been programmed with a humor algorithm for the benefit of the humans on board, 634-257McConaughey's Cooper asks TARS what it's humor level is set to and promptly commands the AI to scale it back a bit. 

Like a lot of "Interstellar," Nolan went to great lengths to envision what the future of deep space exploration would look like, and AI companions for human astronauts are as important to that vision as the film's spectacular black hole set piece, Gargantua, even becoming important characters in the film in their own right.

Back on Earth, NASA, the European Space Agency, and a wide assortment of private space companies are all looking at artificial intelligence as a key part of future space missions like the upcoming Artemis moon missions and eventually the first crewed missions to Mars. But as humans push deeper into space, these AI systems may not simply be tools to help carry out operational tasks but might provide important emotional and mental health support for crew members experiencing the most unique instances of social isolation ever experienced by human beings.

To read more, click here.