NASA's Space Camera Orbiting Mars Captures Image Of Rover On Planet Surface

Curiosity is approximately 10 feet long and 9 feet wide (3.0 meters by 2.8 meters).

The future of outer space exploration looks promising.

"Half the time it would just hit soil - which was also useful, but rock measurements are much more interesting to our scientists", Francis said. It would also allow for more research to be done when a robot is not able to communicate with Earth, such as when it is on the opposite face of a planet. Before the AEGIS software went live, the data had to be sent back to Earth. With such a system, a robot such as Curiosity could scan the horizon, pick an object to study and then drive over and study it. According to NASA, the move is meant to reduce the idle time and open up new approaches for studies. Francis is the lead system engineer for AEGIS' deployment on the Curiosity rover. The android does so by zapping the rocks with a laser, and then processing the gaseous output.

An animated representation of the Mars Curiosity rover.

Curiosity's AEGIS software, or Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science, is used to direct and fire Curiosity's ChemCam instrument.

This is compared to the 24 per cent expected without the software, in which Curiosity's systems would have randomly targeted rocks.

Examples of AEGIS target selection, collected from Martian day 1400 to 1660. All targets found by the AI program are outlined: Blue targets are rejected, while red are retained.

AEGIS can also be used for "fine-scale pointing".

Examples of AEGIS fixing human commands that miss the mark, called 'autonomous pointing refinement.' (A, C) Human-calculated targets in red. "We have more development going on at NASA than ever in the history of the agency", he told the audience.

Interplanetary communication is slow. That's the Mars Curiosity rover as seen by NASA's own Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This is due to how the MRO camera sees the surface of Mars, which highlights differences in the landscape, but doesn't necessarily correlate to natural colors the way people see them. The moon is very distant from the Earth and it orbits around Jupiter. The system has substantially reduced lost time on the mission and markedly increased the pace of data collection with ChemCam.

The AEGIS software is reportedly 93 percent accurate when it comes to finding the rocks that the pool of scientists at NASA wants to study.

  • Carolyn Briggs