NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover Drivers Need Your Help

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AI4Mars

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Three images from the tool called AI4Mars reveal various sort of Martian surface as seen by NASA’s Curiosity rover. By illustration borders around surface functions and appointing among 4 labels to them, you can assist train an algorithm that will immediately determine surface types for Curiosity’s rover organizers. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Using an online tool to label Martian surface types, you can train an expert system algorithm that might enhance the method engineers direct the Curiosity rover.

You might have the ability to assist NASA’s Curiosity rover chauffeurs much better browse Mars. Using the online tool AI4Mars to identify surface functions in images downloaded from the Red Planet, you can train an expert system algorithm to immediately check out the landscape.

Is that a huge rock to the left? Could it be sand? Or possibly it’s good, flat bedrock. AI4Mars, which is hosted on the resident science site Zooniverse, lets you draw borders around surface and pick among 4 labels. Those labels are essential to honing the Martian terrain-classification algorithm called SPOC (Soil Property and Object Classification).

Developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which has actually handled all of the firm’s Mars rover objectives, SPOC labels numerous surface types, producing a visual map that assists objective employee figure out which courses to take. SPOC is currently in usage, however the system might utilize more training.

“Typically, hundreds of thousands of examples are needed to train a deep learning algorithm,” stated Hiro Ono, an AI scientist at JPL. “Algorithms for self-driving cars, for example, are trained with numerous images of roads, signs, traffic lights, pedestrians and other vehicles. Other public datasets for deep learning contain people, animals and buildings — but no Martian landscapes.”

NASA Curiosity Mars Rover

Low-angle self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Once totally up to speed, SPOC will have the ability to immediately compare cohesive soil, high rocks, flat bedrock and harmful dune, sending out images to Earth that will make it simpler to prepare Curiosity’s next relocations.

“In the future, we hope this algorithm can become accurate enough to do other useful tasks, like predicting how likely a rover’s wheels are to slip on different surfaces,” Ono stated.

The Job of Rover Planners

JPL engineers called rover organizers might benefit the most from a better-trained SPOC. They are accountable for Curiosity’s every relocation, whether it’s taking a selfie, dripping crushed samples into the rover’s body to be examined (video listed below), or driving from one area to the next.


NASA’s Curiosity rover examined its very first strong sample of Mars with a range of instruments, consisting of the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite. Developed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., SAM is a portable chemistry laboratory tucked inside the Curiosity rover. SAM takes a look at the chemistry of samples it consumes, examining especially for chemistry appropriate to whether an environment can support or might have supported life.

It can take 4 to 5 hours to exercise a drive (which is now done practically), needing numerous individuals to compose and evaluate numerous lines of code. The job includes substantial cooperation with researchers also: Geologists evaluate the surface to anticipate whether Curiosity’s wheels might slip, be harmed by sharp rocks or get stuck in sand, which caught both the Spirit and Opportunity rovers.

Planners likewise think about which method the rover will be pointed at the end of a drive, given that its high-gain antenna requires a clear view to Earth to get commands. And they attempt to prepare for shadows falling throughout the surface throughout a drive, which can hinder how Curiosity figures out range. (The rover utilizes a strategy called visual odometry, comparing electronic camera images to close-by landmarks.)

How AI Could Help

SPOC won’t change the complex, time-intensive work of rover organizers. But it can release them to concentrate on other elements of their task, like talking about with researchers which rocks to study next.

“It’s our job to figure out how to safely get the mission’s science,” stated Stephanie Oij, among the JPL rover organizers associated with AI4Mars. “Automatically generating terrain labels would save us time and help us be more productive.”

The advantages of a smarter algorithm would encompass organizers on NASA’s next Mars objective, the Perseverance rover, which introduces this summertime. But initially, an archive of identified images is required. More than 8,000 Curiosity images have actually been published to the AI4Mars website up until now, offering lots of fodder for the algorithm. Ono intends to include images from Spirit and Opportunity in the future. In the meantime, JPL volunteers are equating the website so that individuals who speak Spanish, Hindi, Japanese and a number of other languages can contribute also.