Evolution of Mars Rover Surface Navigation Autonomy

NASA has launched four generations of Mars Rovers, each more capable than the last of driving autonomously on Mars. Autonomous behaviors like Hazard Detection and Avoidance, Visual Odometry, and Visual Terrain Tracking all have been used to help rovers drive more safely, more precisely, and into unknown areas never before seen by humans.

This talk will discuss the evolution and benefits of vision-based Surface Navigational Autonomy across all four rover missions: what technologies were available, which were selected and at what mission phase, how they were used on Mars, and what mission benefits have resulted from their use. We'll review lessons learned from developing multiple generations of rovers, some of the new mobility capabilities of Perseverance, and the trials and tribulations of mission operations: rovers getting stuck, discovering unexpected terrains, and the implications for mission planning of letting a rover choose its own way.

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