NASA’s Mars Rover Drivers Need Your Help

Nancy J. Delong

Utilizing an on line software to label Martian terrain types, you can coach an artificial intelligence algorithm that could boost the way engineers guideline the Curiosity rover.

You may possibly be equipped to aid NASA’s Curiosity rover drivers greater navigate Mars. Utilizing the on line tool AI4Mars to label terrain features in photos downloaded from the Red Planet, you can coach an artificial intelligence algorithm to quickly go through the landscape.

Is that a large rock to the still left? Could it be sand? Or probably it is great, flat bedrock. AI4Mars, which is hosted on the citizen science site Zooniverse, lets you attract boundaries around terrain and choose a single of four labels. All those labels are important to sharpening the Martian terrain-classification algorithm called SPOC (Soil House and Item Classification).

Three images from the software named AI4Mars display distinctive sorts of Martian terrain as found by NASA’s Curiosity rover. By drawing borders around terrain features and assigning a single of four labels to them, you can aid coach an algorithm that will quickly identify terrain types for Curiosity’s rover planners. Credit rating: NASA/JPL-Caltec

Made at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which has managed all of the agency’s Mars rover missions, SPOC labels many terrain types, creating a visual map that allows mission group customers determine which paths to consider. SPOC is now in use, but the technique could use further coaching.

“Typically, hundreds of hundreds of examples are necessary to coach a deep mastering algorithm,” said Hiro Ono, an AI researcher at JPL. “Algorithms for self-driving cars, for illustration, are experienced with many images of roads, signals, targeted visitors lights, pedestrians and other cars. Other public datasets for deep mastering have men and women, animals and buildings – but no Martian landscapes.”

The moment fully up to speed, SPOC will be equipped to quickly distinguish between cohesive soil, substantial rocks, flat bedrock and risky sand dunes, sending images to Earth that will make it much easier to system Curiosity’s future moves.

“In the potential, we hope this algorithm can come to be precise more than enough to do other useful duties, like predicting how probably a rover’s wheels are to slip on distinctive surfaces,” Ono said.

The Job of Rover Planners

JPL engineers named rover planners may possibly gain the most from a greater-experienced SPOC. They are dependable for Curiosity’s each and every transfer, no matter whether it’s taking a selfie, trickling pulverized samples into the rover’s body to be analyzed or driving from a single place to the future.

It can consider four to five hrs to do the job out a travel (which is now performed pretty much), requiring several men and women to produce and overview hundreds of strains of code. The endeavor entails intensive collaboration with experts as very well: Geologists evaluate the terrain to predict no matter whether Curiosity’s wheels could slip, be harmed by sharp rocks or get trapped in sand, which trapped the two the Spirit and Opportunity rovers.

Planners also look at which way the rover will be pointed at the conclusion of a travel, because its high-obtain antenna needs a distinct line of sight to Earth to acquire instructions. And they consider to foresee shadows slipping across the terrain throughout a travel, which can interfere with how Curiosity determines distance. (The rover works by using a approach named visual odometry, evaluating camera images to nearby landmarks.)

How AI Could Help

SPOC will not change the complex, time-intensive do the job of rover planners. But it can absolutely free them to concentration on other elements of their job, like discussing with experts which rocks to examine future.

“It’s our job to determine out how to securely get the mission’s science,” said Stephanie Oij, a single of the JPL rover planners involved in AI4Mars. “Automatically generating terrain labels would save us time and aid us be extra successful.”

The rewards of a smarter algorithm would prolong to planners on NASA’s future Mars mission, the Perseverance rover, which launches this summer months. But to start with, an archive of labeled images is necessary. A lot more than 8,000 Curiosity images have been uploaded to the AI4Mars site so considerably, supplying a great deal of fodder for the algorithm. Ono hopes to include images from Spirit and Prospect in the potential. In the meantime, JPL volunteers are translating the site so that members who speak Spanish, Hindi, Japanese and a number of other languages can add as very well.

Resource: JPL

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