NASA’s Curiosity Rover Makes Its Own Decisions On Mars

Since last year, NASA’s Curiosity rover has been exploring the rocky surface of Mars independently without any input from humans. The autonomous exploration is helping the scientists to save time and energy and other constraints encountered when working across the enormous distances in the space. The new capability is power-driven by software known as the Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science (AEGIS). The system enables the rover to have control over the use of its own ChemCam.

The ChemCam instrument helps the rover to detect the chemical composition of rocks and determining which rocks to target through the use of a laser. The new software was deployed between May 2016 and April 2017 and through the controlled observations by NASA researchers, the automation has dramatically increased the number of laser firings from 256-327 per day.

The more the laser firings increase in number, the more data is collected and this gives the scientists the ability to understand Mars better in terms of what is changing on the planet. Every time the rover moves to a new area on Mars, the AEGIS automatically scans the place using the rover’s cameras by identifying and ranking the type of rock patches to analyze with ChemCam.

The Curiosity rover has been updated recently to give it more capability to select which rocks to zap on Mars surface. The rover is particularly useful when the distance is long or when there are delays in sharing the information between the Earth and Mars planets. The scientists will now not worry much about deciding when to pull the trigger since Curiosity will be calling the shots by itself and sending relevant information back to the Earth.

While the researchers find time to do other things on Earth, the robots will be carrying out their duties for them. The system will automatically save the scientists the time spent waiting for a signal to and from Mars which takes about 20 minutes. The AEGIS system is proved to be 93% in precisely finding the suitable rocks for study. The software has the capacity to target profiles to enable Curiosity to look for diverse kinds of rocks everytime the robot rolls into new environment.

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