Astrogeology Science Center

Sol 24 update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Autonomous Navigation

31 August 2012

The highlight of the Sol 24 plan is to test some of the software that will allow the rover to avoid obstacles automatically. If the test, involving taking images and processing them onboard the rover, is successful the rover will drive farther toward our goal, called Glenelg. This location will have a good view of the intersection of 3 different terrain types, where we should be able to study the relationships between these geologic units and therefore interpret their history. But to get there quickly we will need to use the "autonomous navigation" that we are starting to check out. After the drive, we have some time for science observations, which were the focus of the science team's efforts today. It was my last shift as SOWG Chair for a few weeks, and went more smoothly than yesterday's planning. The biggest problem today was that the data volume expected to be relayed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in time to plan Sol 25 is very small, probably not enough to return the images we need to plan another drive. Hopefully we will get more data through MRO than expected, and we prioritized the various data products accordingly. If we don't get at least one stereo pair of images of the terrain in front of the rover after the drive, we will have to stay put for a sol. Obviously, this wouldn't be a problem, but we would like get to Glenelg soon, and it is about 400 m away.

We received confirmation that the last of the Mastcam characterization data were acquired, so we were able to plan new Mastcam observations today. This was a relief to the science team, and especially to me, as fitting it all in to the plans over the past week required a lot of planning.