NASA engineer told how it is - to control the rover

NASA engineer told how it is – to control the rover


In less than two months, the American aerospace agency NASA plans to land a new rover on the Red Planet. If all goes according to plan, the Perseverance rover, equipped with a variety of scientific instruments, will open a new page in interplanetary exploration in mid-February next year.

How it really is – to control a robot located many millions of kilometers from the Earth – shared NASA engineer Evan Hilgemann (Evan Hilgemann). Last year, Hilgemann joined the engineering team in charge of operating NASA’s six-wheeled Mars rover Curiosity, which has been on Mars for over 8 years.

Since it takes about 22 minutes to transmit a signal between Earth and Mars, Perseverance will have to perform many different tasks on its own. However “Many of the activities that rovers are doing are actually hardcoded and planned ahead of time on Earth.”, explains Hilgemann.

Perseverance is equipped with multiple 3D cameras that will allow it to capture near and far surroundings. With data from these navigation cameras, teams on Earth will be able to recreate the ground environment over which the new mobile research station will navigate.

Hilgemann and his teammates will be tasked with avoiding the problems that the new rover could potentially face as it moves across the surface of the Red Planet. According to Hilgemann, “The suspension of the rover can cope with the movement of the car on stones several centimeters high, so everything that is larger should be carefully managed”… In addition, the robot will need to avoid areas with small stones and a wobbly surface to avoid accidentally getting stuck in them.

The team has several ways to control the rover. For example, in the “blind driving” mode, the rover will transmit the lists of commands and instructions for its further actions. The “visual odometry” mode is also possible, when the car moves and stops every meter of the path to photograph the environment and send the data to the Earth, where the computer decides whether it is safe to move on this route. The most advanced way of “auto-navigation” or “auto-navigation” will allow Perseverance to move completely autonomously.

“Since the car needs to stop frequently in auto-navigation mode to create images and analyze data, this mode is actually the slowest. For example, when using autonava, the Curiosity rover covers only about 30 meters of the Martian surface per hour “, Explains Hilgemann.

In the event of a successful landing on the Red Planet after “seven minutes of horror”, the Perseverance rover will quickly begin its research mission to find evidence of life on Mars in the past. Thanks to a number of improvements to its navigation system, which uses a separate computer and more advanced algorithms, Perseverance will be able to move around the Red Planet at least twice as fast as Curiosity, Hilgemann says. One of the most important tasks of the new rover will be the collection of the most interesting samples of Martian soil for their further transportation to Earth during future missions to Mars.

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