NASA’s new rover will be a group of mobile robots working together


On the ship, each rover will carry a small computer, a radio station and a stereo camera to capture 3D images. Although none of them can collect as much data as the larger one, deploying several at the same time can reduce the risk of catastrophic mission failure.

CADRE was developed in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and tested by NASA researchers. Simulated Moon Operation (SLOPE) Laboratory NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. SLOPE is a laboratory for testing VIPER (Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover), a mobile robot that will be launched in November 2023 to detect frozen water on the moon.

One of the goals of the project is to prevent what happened on NASA’s Mars rover Spirit in 2009—a nightmare for space exploration enthusiasts.

As one of two twin rover vehicles sent to both sides of Mars in 2004, the Spirit provides the most detailed view of the Red Planet in human history. But after five years of mission, Spirit’s wheels got stuck in the soft Martian sand. NASA engineers spent eight months moving it, but after many unsuccessful attempts, Spirit was eventually downgraded to a fixed science platform.

To ensure that the new rover does not get stuck, SLOPE simulates the unique terrain they must navigate, from the powdery soil of the moon to the rocky surface of Mars. The researchers used motion capture technology involving a pair of stereo cameras to create thousands of 3D images that measure the speed of each rover and the movement of its tires to help them predict the response of the soil.

“The system allows us to truly characterize traction performance,” Schepelmann said. “We can basically measure how each part of the robot moves.”

Wolfgang FinkThe Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Arizona who studies autonomous exploration systems said that despite the limited autonomy of rovers such as Curiosity and Perseverance, the transition to full autonomy through projects such as CADRE will enable humans to explore areas that we may never be able to explore. Otherwise reach.

On average, communication between the Earth and the Moon only takes a few seconds, but if the message must be transmitted from Mars, the time will be extended to a few minutes. As far as Saturn’s largest satellite, Titan, communication between mission control and any lander or rover takes hours, this means that any unforeseen failure may put the entire mission at risk. The further away we want to explore from home, the more important the autonomy.



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