NASA's Mars rover starts to think for itself
Uploaded AI software aims to speed NASA's analysis of rocks found on Martian surface
Computerworld - After seven years of working on the surface of Mars, NASA's Mars rover Opportunity has been upgraded to allow it to make some of its own decisions.
NASA announced Tuesday that its engineers this winter uploaded artificial intelligence software to enable the Mars rover to decide on its own whether it wants to stop and analyze rocks spotted during its travels across the Martian surface. The space agency noted that the upgrade will provide a good test of robotic autonomy, which it hopes to use more fully in future NASA space missions.
"We spent years developing this capability on research rovers in the Mars Yard here at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory," said Tara Estlin, a senior member of the Artificial Intelligence Group at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in a statement. "Six years ago, we never expected that we would get a chance to use it on Opportunity."
NASA has two rovers on Mars -- Spirit and Opportunity. The twin rovers have been slowly trekking across the planet's surface for years, sending images and data back to NASA scientists.
The robots are among the most advanced technology ever built at the Jet Propulsion Lab, said Bruce Banerdt, a project scientist for the Mars Exploration Rovers, said in an earlier interview.
Overall, Opportunity rover has had better luck than its counterpart, Spirit.
In January, NASA announced that Spirit is permanently stuck in Martian dirt. Nonetheless, NASA scientists hope that Spirit can conduct experiments from where it sits.
Meanwhile, Opportunity, is still mobile.
The artificial intelligence software is designed to Opportunity's computer system recognize rocks that meet specified, pre-programmed criteria, such as a rounded shape or certain color. If the object meets specific criteria, the rover then will use its narrower-angle panoramic camera to take multiple images of it.
"It's a way to get some bonus science," said Estlin.
The new software is called Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science, or AEGIS.
Previously, scientists at NASA would have to determine when rocks needed more analysis after studying photos sent back from the rover.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about Government IT in Computerworld's Government IT Topic Center.
This pilot fish is a contractor at a military base, working on some very cool fire-control systems for tanks. But when he spots something obviously wrong during a live-fire test, he can't get the firing-range commander's attention.
- IT Certification Study Tips
- Register for this Computerworld Insider Study Tip guide and gain access to hundreds of premium content articles, cheat sheets, product reviews and more.
- Reduce federal infrastructure risk with compliance management and situational awareness
- IBM continuous monitoring and management solutions deliver real-time situational awareness to help federal agencies understand vulnerabilities, and protect the infrastructure.
- SANS: Next-Generation Datacenters = Next-Generation Security
- This whitepaper takes a look at some new technology that may allow security teams to implement more flexible and capable protection models in...
- SANS: Protecting Virtual Endpoints with McAfee Server Security Suite Essentials
- SANS review of McAfees Server Security Suite Essentials that address some of the emerging challenges of securing virtual platforms and cloud environments.
- Safeguarding the Next-Generation Data Center
- Use of virtual and cloud servers has exploded. Unfortunately, security often lags behind. McAfee recommends looking at innovative solutions in order to erect...
- Aberdeen: Securing the Evolving Datacenter
- This report highlights ways security technologies and services are evolving to provide the visibility and control needed to deploy workloads flexibly in the... All Government IT White Papers
- Is SQL Server AlwaysOn really as powerful? Tips and Tricks from the field With the introduction of AlwaysOn, Windows Clustering Services is now more critical than ever.
- What Does it Take to Deliver a Superior Customer Experience? The Two Top-Rated Online Retailers, B&H Photo and Crutchfield Electronics, Share Their Secrets Discuss practical CX tools and service methods such as contact center agents and the use of realtime speech analytics to help contact center...
- Keep Servers Up and Running and Attackers in the Dark An SSL/TLS handshake requires at least 10 times more processing power on a server than on the client. SSL renegotiation attacks can readily...
- On Demand: Mastering the Art of Mobile Content Management Mobile device usage in the enterprise has skyrocketed, and it continues to escalate. IT must answer to users who demand access to their...
- DevOps with PureApplication System: Reduce cost and speed delivery with an integrated IBM Cloud solution Join this webcast to hear what ING Netherlands has been able to achieve while deploying DevOps tools from IBM Rational. An ING executive...
- All Government IT Webcasts