Mars, Perseverance explores with an autonomous driving system

It is called AutoNav and is the sophisticated software that allows the NASA rover to move on the surface of Mars independently from commands from the Earth

Photo: NASA

Your Mars Perseverance ha took the lead. Almost five months from his ammartaggio, the latest NASA rover began to move on the surface of the Red Planet in autonomous way, through a sophisticated system of automatic pilot called AutoNav. Perseverance will manage to move without a constant control from the Earth at the speed of 120 meters per hour, far surpassing its predecessor Curiosity. Its goal? To explore the bottom of the crater Lake, looking for ancient signs of life on the red planet.

Perseverance is its first mission

The July 30, 2020 the spacecraft of the Nasa Mars 2020 mission was launched gives Cape Canaveral, in Florida, towards Mars: it was carrying the latest six-wheeled robot designed by the American space agency, Perseverance. After a journey that lasted six and a half months, on February 18, 2021 the rover is ammartato on the surface of the planet, ready to begin its first scientific mission: the exploration of the surface of the crater Lake, for about a Martian year (687 Earth days).

The key objective of the mission is the search for signs of ancient microorganisms, in addition to the characterization of the climate and geology of Mars. All this will serve to pave the way forhuman exploration of the red planet. The crater Jezero is a depression of the Martian ground about 45 kilometers which is located on the western edge of a plain called Isidis Planitia, just north of the equator of Mars. Billions of years ago, when liquid water was present on Mars, Jezero was a lake. Perseverance landed right on an ancient dry delta of a river on the edge of the crater. Here he will search signs of a primordial life: the purpose of the rover is to collect samples, which will then be analyzed on Earth, on the surface of Jezero for about 15 kilometers.

The rover takes the lead

Until now Perseverance has always been led from Earth by a team of engineers, pilots and scientists from NASA, engaged in the planning of navigation routes and in drafting the instructions to be transmitted to the rover, even when wearing special 3D glasses to plot the route as closely as possible to the conformation of the terrain.

Now, however, the time has come for the rover to take care of part of the business alone, across the automatic pilot called AutoNav. This system, recently enhanced by NASA, is capable of create 3D terrain maps around Perseverance, in order to identify the dangers and trace a path accordingly, in total autonomy from the Earth. The system allows the rover, just like a car driver, to think about autonomous driving and at the same time of spin the wheels.

Autonav would allow Perseverance to hit peaks of speed 120 meters per hour. Curiosity, its predecessor, could reach a maximum of 20 meters per hour. L’efficiency with which Perseverance would face the roughness of the terrain Jezero’s don’t just depend on AutoNav’s software: there have been several changes compared to Curiosity mechanical improvements, first of all the use of thinner wheels, with larger diameter, which allow to overcome even the most uneven terrain.

We will be able to reach the objective places of the mission much faster“, Said Jennifer Trosper, who has worked on all of NASA’s Martian rovers and is project manager of the Mars 2020 Perseverance mission:”We are now able to drive through these more complex terrains instead of bypassing them – not something we have been able to do before.“. Perseverance, therefore, is ready to take the lead: in the meantime, scientists on Earth will monitor whether everything is going well.

Categories:   Science