Washington: An upgrade to Mars Rovers could help make discoveries further out in the solar system, according to scientists.
A new camera has been developed that can do more than just take pictures of alien rocks -- it also thinks about what the pictures signify so the rover can decide on its own whether to keep exploring a particular site, or move on.
Senior researcher Kiri Wagstaff, a computer scientist and geologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said that they currently have a micromanaging approach to space exploration.
She said that while this suffices for our rovers on Mars, it works less and less well the further you get from the Earth.
Wagstaff said that if you want to get ambitious and go to Europa and asteroids and comets, you need more and more autonomy to even make that feasible.
To help future rover and space missions spend less time waiting for instructions from Earth, Wagstaff and her colleagues developed an advanced two-lens camera, called TextureCam.
Although Curiosity and other rovers can already, on their own, distinguish rocks from other objects in photos they take, they must send images all the way to Earth for scientific analysis of a particular rock.
This process costs time and limits the potential scientific scope of rovers’ missions. TextureCam can do the analysis by itself.
The research has been published in Geophysical Research Letters, a publication of the American Geophysical Union.