NASA’s Mars Rover Drivers Need Your Help

Maria J. Danford

You may perhaps be equipped to enable NASA’s Curiosity rover drivers far better navigate Mars. Applying the online tool AI4Mars to label terrain functions in photographs downloaded from the Red Planet, you can prepare an artificial intelligence algorithm to mechanically study the landscape. Is that a major rock to the still left? […]

You may perhaps be equipped to enable NASA’s Curiosity rover drivers far better navigate Mars. Applying the online tool AI4Mars to label terrain functions in photographs downloaded from the Red Planet, you can prepare an artificial intelligence algorithm to mechanically study the landscape.

Is that a major rock to the still left? Could it be sand? Or perhaps it’s great, flat bedrock. AI4Mars, which is hosted on the citizen science web site Zooniverse, lets you attract boundaries all-around terrain and pick out just one of four labels. These labels are crucial to sharpening the Martian terrain-classification algorithm called SPOC (Soil Home and Item Classification).

Designed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which has managed all of the agency’s Mars rover missions, SPOC labels numerous terrain forms, generating a visual map that will help mission group associates establish which paths to choose. SPOC is already in use, but the procedure could use further more training.

“Typically, hundreds of hundreds of illustrations are required to prepare a deep mastering algorithm,” said Hiro Ono, an AI researcher at JPL. “Algorithms for self-driving automobiles, for instance, are skilled with various pictures of roadways, symptoms, targeted traffic lights, pedestrians and other cars. Other community datasets for deep mastering include folks, animals and properties – but no Martian landscapes.”

A few pictures from the instrument identified as AI4Mars display distinctive kinds of Martian terrain as witnessed by NASA’s Curiosity rover. By drawing borders all-around terrain functions and assigning just one of four labels to them, you can enable prepare an algorithm that will mechanically establish terrain forms for Curiosity’s rover planners. Credit rating: NASA/JPL-Caltec

After absolutely up to velocity, SPOC will be equipped to mechanically distinguish in between cohesive soil, superior rocks, flat bedrock and hazardous sand dunes, sending pictures to Earth that will make it less difficult to system Curiosity’s following moves.

“In the foreseeable future, we hope this algorithm can become accurate more than enough to do other handy responsibilities, like predicting how likely a rover’s wheels are to slip on distinctive surfaces,” Ono said.

The Career of Rover Planners

JPL engineers identified as rover planners may perhaps profit the most from a far better-skilled SPOC. They are responsible for Curiosity’s every single shift, no matter if it’s taking a selfie, trickling pulverized samples into the rover’s body to be analyzed or driving from just one place to the following.

It can choose four to five hours to perform out a travel (which is now accomplished practically), requiring multiple folks to generate and evaluate hundreds of lines of code. The task involves intensive collaboration with researchers as effectively: Geologists assess the terrain to forecast no matter if Curiosity’s wheels could slip, be destroyed by sharp rocks or get caught in sand, which trapped equally the Spirit and Opportunity rovers.

Planners also take into account which way the rover will be pointed at the stop of a travel, considering that its high-get antenna needs a apparent line of sight to Earth to get commands. And they consider to anticipate shadows slipping across the terrain through a travel, which can interfere with how Curiosity establishes length. (The rover employs a system identified as visual odometry, comparing camera pictures to nearby landmarks.)

How AI Could Assist

SPOC won’t exchange the sophisticated, time-intense perform of rover planners. But it can totally free them to focus on other factors of their job, like talking about with researchers which rocks to research following.

“It’s our job to figure out how to securely get the mission’s science,” said Stephanie Oij, just one of the JPL rover planners concerned in AI4Mars. “Automatically making terrain labels would save us time and enable us be much more productive.”

The rewards of a smarter algorithm would lengthen to planners on NASA’s following Mars mission, the Perseverance rover, which launches this summer time. But to start with, an archive of labeled pictures is required. Extra than 8,000 Curiosity pictures have been uploaded to the AI4Mars web site so much, supplying a lot of fodder for the algorithm. Ono hopes to increase pictures from Spirit and Prospect in the foreseeable future. In the meantime, JPL volunteers are translating the web site so that individuals who communicate Spanish, Hindi, Japanese and a number of other languages can contribute as effectively.

Source: JPL


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