The Mars Curiosity rover just did something incredible

The Mars Curiosity rover just did something incredible

It's a huge finding that could change how scientists approach their work on the Red Planet, and could lead to huge new discoveries.

NASA scientists have just figured out something amazing they can do with the Mars Curiosity rover: they can do autonomous laser shooting.

It’s the first time a robot planetary mission has ever pulled it off, allowing Curiosity to autonomously target risks and soil that may be interessting and shooting a laser and camera at the objects using the ChemCam on the rover, sending that information on its very long journy back to Earth, according to a NASA statement.

Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California in the past had to select samples from images taken by Curoisity and then manually direct the ChemCam to examine those areas. Scientists will still select most of the samples, but this gives them another set of eyes they didn’t have before.

Scientists have been able to pull this off with the Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science (AEGIS) software, which analyzes images of Curiosity’s surroundings using a set of criteria from up to 23 feet away.

“This autonomy is particularly useful at times when getting the science team in the loop is difficult or impossible — in the middle of a long drive, perhaps, or when the schedules of Earth, Mars and spacecraft activities lead to delays in sharing information between the planets,” said robotics engineer Tara Estlin, the leader of AEGIS development at JPL.

“AEGIS brings an extra opportunity to use ChemCam, to do more, when the interaction with scientists is limited,” said ChemCam Science Operation Lead Olivier Gasnault, at the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology (IRAP), of France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the University of Toulouse, France. “It does not replace an existing mode, but complements it.”the middle of a long drive, perhaps, or when the schedules of Earth, Mars and spacecraft activities lead to delays in sharing information between the planets,” said robotics engineer Tara Estlin, the leader of AEGIS development at JPL.

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