by Patrick L. Barry
|Are these rocks of any scientific interest? With the new AEGIS software, the Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, will be able to judge for themselves whether a scene is worth a high-resolution image. (Artistís rendering.) Photo courtesy NASA/JPL|
"Using AEGIS, the rovers could get science data that they would otherwise miss," says Rebecca Castaño, leader of the AEGIS project at JPL. The software builds on artificial intelligence technologies pioneered by NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite (EO-1), one of a series of technology-testbed satellites developed by NASA's New Millennium Program.
AEGIS identifies a rock as being interesting in one of two ways. Mission scientists can program AEGIS to look for rocks with certain traits, such as smoothness or roughness, bright or dark surfaces, or shapes that are rounded or flat.
In addition, AEGIS can single out rocks simply because they look unusual, which often means the rocks could tell scientists something new about Mars's present and past.
The software has been thoroughly tested, Castaño says, and now it must be integrated and tested with other flight software, then uploaded to the rovers on Mars. Once installed, she hopes, Spirit and Opportunity will leave no good Mars rock unturned.
Check out other ways that the Mars Rovers have been upgraded with artificial intelligence software at http://nmp/TECHNOLOGY/infusion.html#sciencecraft.
This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.