NASA yesterday switched its Mars rover Curiosity to its autonomous navigation system. For over a year now the agency’s engineers have been driving the rover on Mars, now the rover is capable of driving itself. Switching to the autonomous navigation system will allow the rover to cover more ground, it will map out the safest driving path to its destination on its own by analyzing images taken during its drive. The images were previously analyzed by NASA’s people on the ground before they approved a route for it.
The rover was successfully switched to autonav yesterday and it drove onto ground that wasn’t deemed to be safe before. A preparatory test was conducted last week in which Curiosity mapped out a drive for itself while remaining in an area that had been identified as safe. Using the self-drive system will enable Curiosity to travel an additional 10 meters a day, as it capitalizes on the time that was previously spent by NASA’s engineers to determine a safe path for it. The Mars Curiosity rover is now making its way towards Mount Sharp where it will collect soil samples. It will continue to beam back information about the Red Planet, like it has done in the past.