NASA has applied newÂ software on the Curiosity Mars rover to give the robotic mission anÂ autonomous targeting feature.
The agency said Thursday Curiosity usesÂ theÂ Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science softwareÂ fromÂ NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory toÂ choose targets for theÂ laser and telescopic camera components of the rover’s Chemistry and Camera instrument.
Tara Estlin, AEGIS development head at JPL, said the autonomy aids the team’s operations when communication issuesÂ lead to information sharing delays between Earth and Mars.
Without automation, CuriosityÂ has to stay in place while ground operators work on laserÂ pointing parameters to help the rover hit small targets.
Curiosity’sÂ ChemCam works to detect the color spectrum of plasmas generated when laser zapsÂ a target and scientists use this information to determineÂ the chemical compositions of targets, NASA said.
AEGIS is designed toÂ analyze images based on scientists’ criteria and aid laser-pointing at targets that are pre-selected by scientists, the space agency noted.
Curiosity investigates geological layers on lower Mount Sharp as part of its mission to analyze evidence on how the surrounding environmentÂ changed from conditions that can accommodateÂ microbial life to dry, inhospitable conditions.