September 19, 2013

As NASA's Curiosity heads to Mount Sharp, the rover is using autonomous navigation to pick the best route.


Hi, I’m Mark Maimone, rover planner and mobility engineer on the

Mars Science Laboratory mission.

I’m here with the Curiosity engineering model at JPL’s Mars yard and this is your Curiosity rover report.

Out here in the Mars yard is where we developed the software that Curiosity will use to drive autonomously.

We can test all kinds of situations out here. We can put rocks in its way and big holes and watch what happens and see how it responds to different terrain situations.

For the past year, Curiosity has been driving on Mars following instructions from human rover planners. But now, we have a new capability that’s coming on line something that will let Curiosity drive herself on Mars. This is called “Autonomous navigation.

Humans are still in the loop. We’re going to tell her where to go. Curiosity is going to decide how to get there.

Curiosity takes pictures from the navigation cameras, with the hazard cameras, and it’s able to combine that information, put it all together to define a safe way to get to where we ask her to go.

And that capability is going to let us drive much farther than before,

This is an animation showing Curiosity’s first autonomous drive on Mars. The drive lasted about 10 meters and you can see in the animation that she turned her camera this way and that to look at what’s ahead of her.

And you can also see, she didn’t just go in a straight line. She actually curved a little bit to the right to avoid some of the small rocks that were directly in front of her.

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