Mars rovers to get an upgrade

Nasa will make a major upgrade to its two Mars rovers in June to help them to think for themselves.
They want them to be able to make their own decisions as they explore our neighbouring world.
It will be like updating software on your home computer – but over a distance of 242 million miles.
Robot buggies Spirit and Opportunity are still roaming the Red Planet more than two and a quarter years after they landed.
Their original missions were designed to last just 90 days and their performance has exceeded all expectations.
Spirit is resting out winter with a broken wheel in Gusev Crater. Opportunity suffered a damaged “arm” on the other side of the planet.
But the software upgrade will help them to continue to study the Martian rocks and atmosphere.
Nasa say it will also help them to sort through the many photos they are taking in an intelligent fashion to pick out the most interesting.
The space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena are keen, for example, to study more pictures of Martian dust devils – little whirlwinds that spin across the planet’s desert landscape.
Getting the rovers to recognise the phenomenon will mean they can automatically focus on observing it in detail without waiting for commands from mission control.
And it will save humans having the time-consuming task of sorting through images later.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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