NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover Gets a Major Software Upgrade

The rover can now do more of what the team calls “thinking whilst driving” – anything NASA’s newest Mars rover, Perseverance, can execute in a additional sophisticated way to navigate all-around rocks and sand traps. When Perseverance drives, it regularly snaps pictures of the terrain in advance, processing them with a focused pc so it can autonomously navigate all through a person continual drive.

Curiosity does not have a devoted laptop for this goal. Alternatively, it drives in segments, halting to method imagery of the terrain following every single segment. That signifies it needs to begin and stop repeatedly around the program of a lengthy push. The new software will aid the venerable rover method illustrations or photos quicker, making it possible for it to shell out more time on the go.

“This won’t permit Curiosity push as speedily as Perseverance, but as an alternative of stopping for a whole minute after a push phase, we’re halting for just a instant or two,” reported Jonathan Denison of JPL, Curiosity’s engineering functions staff chief. “Spending less time idling concerning generate segments also indicates we use less vitality just about every working day. And even while we’re almost 11 many years previous, we’re even now applying new tips to use extra of our accessible strength for science functions.”

Wheel Have on

The crew also wants to retain the health of Curiosity’s aluminum wheels, which started displaying indicators of broken treads in 2013. When engineers realized that sharp rocks have been chipping absent at the treads, they came up with an algorithm to enhance traction and minimize wheel dress in by changing the rover’s pace depending on the rocks it’s rolling above.

The new program goes additional by introducing two new mobility instructions that lessen the total of steering Curiosity wants to do while driving in an arc toward a unique waypoint. With fewer steering necessary, the staff can access the drive focus on a lot quicker and decrease the wear that inherently will come with steering.

“That capacity was in fact dreamed up in the course of the Spirit and Prospect times,” Denison stated. “It was a ‘nice to have’ they made the decision not to implement.”

Over-all, the new computer software will streamline the task of Curiosity’s human motorists, who have to create complicated plans that contains hundreds of commands. The software update will also allow them to add software package patches additional conveniently than in previous. And it will enable engineers prepare the motions of Curiosity’s robotic arm more effectively and issue its “head” atop the mast a lot more accurately.

As with any significant software program update, there is a feeling of relief to see it functioning as built, Denison claimed.

“The strategy of hitting the set up button was a minor terrifying,” he included. “Despite all our tests, we never ever know particularly what will transpire right up until the software package is up there.”

Much more About the Mission

Curiosity was constructed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which is managed by Caltech in Pasadena, California. JPL sales opportunities the mission on behalf of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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