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NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover will get a serious software program improve

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover will get a serious software program improve

2023-04-14 15:18:07

NASA's Curiosity mars rover gets a major software upgrade
NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover will drive sooner and cut back put on on its wheels thanks to 2 of the brand new capabilities included with a serious software program replace that was accomplished on April 7. Seen right here is the rover’s view of a hill nicknamed “Bolívar,” with Gale Crater’s huge flooring within the higher proper. Credit score: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The replace brings a great deal of enhancements, essentially the most vital being new driving capabilities.

Years within the making, a serious software program replace that has been put in on NASA’s Curiosity rover will allow the Mars robotic to drive sooner and cut back put on and tear on its wheels. These are simply two of about 180 adjustments carried out in the course of the replace, which required the group to place Curiosity’s science and imaging operations on maintain between April 3 and April 7.

“The flight software is important to our mission, so it is a large deal for our group,” mentioned Curiosity Mission Supervisor Kathya Zamora-Garcia of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “It is a main software program replace, and we had to ensure we did it proper.”

Planning for this replace goes again to 2016, when Curiosity final acquired a software program overhaul. Some adjustments this time round are as small as making corrections to the messages the rover sends again to mission controllers on Earth. Others simplify pc code that has been altered by a number of patches since Curiosity touched down in 2012. The largest adjustments will assist preserve Curiosity rolling extra effectively for years to return.

The rover can now do extra of what the group calls “pondering whereas driving”—one thing NASA’s latest Mars rover, Perseverance, can carry out in a extra superior method to navigate round rocks and sand traps. When Perseverance drives, it continually snaps photos of the terrain forward, processing them with a devoted pc so it could autonomously navigate throughout one steady drive.

Curiosity does not have a devoted pc for this objective. As an alternative, it drives in segments, halting to course of imagery of the terrain after every phase. Meaning it wants to start out and cease repeatedly over the course of an extended drive. The brand new software program will assist the venerable rover course of photos sooner, permitting it to spend extra time on the transfer.

“This would possibly not let Curiosity drive as shortly as Perseverance, however as a substitute of stopping for a full minute after a drive phase, we’re stopping for only a second or two,” mentioned Jonathan Denison of JPL, Curiosity’s engineering operations group chief. “Spending much less time idling between drive segments additionally means we use much less power every day. And regardless that we’re virtually 11 years outdated, we’re nonetheless implementing new concepts to make use of extra of our obtainable power for science actions.”

Wheel put on

The group additionally needs to take care of the well being of Curiosity’s aluminum wheels, which started displaying indicators of damaged treads in 2013. When engineers realized that sharp rocks had been chipping away on the treads, they got here up with an algorithm to enhance traction and cut back wheel put on by adjusting the rover’s pace relying on the rocks it is rolling over.

The brand new software program goes additional by introducing two new mobility instructions that cut back the quantity of steering Curiosity must do whereas driving in an arc towards a particular waypoint. With much less steering required, the group can attain the drive goal faster and reduce the damage that inherently comes with steering.

“That capacity was truly dreamed up in the course of the Spirit and Alternative days,” Denison mentioned. “It was a ‘good to have’ they determined to not implement.”

General, the brand new software program will streamline the duty of Curiosity’s human drivers, who’ve to put in writing advanced plans containing a whole bunch of instructions. The software program replace can even allow them to add software program patches extra simply than in previous. And it’ll assist engineers plan the motions of Curiosity’s robotic arm extra effectively and level its “head” atop the mast extra precisely.

As with all main software update, there is a sense of aid to see it working as designed, Denison mentioned.

See Also

“The thought of hitting the set up button was just a little scary,” he added. “Regardless of all our testing, we by no means know precisely what’s going to occur till the software program is up there.”

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover will get a serious software program improve (2023, April 13)
retrieved 14 April 2023

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