NASA’s Perseverance rover that began roaming the surface of Mars will have a much easier task from now on thanks to the AutoNav technology. As you already guessed, this implies that the rover won’t need to rely too much on guidance from Earth to know where to go. AutoNav is a navigation system that’s able of mapping terrain and plan routes.
Space.com brings the great news of Perseverance’s modern technological equipment. Jennifer Trosper, who is project manager for the rover at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of NASA, explained the utility of AutoNav in a statement cited by the American space agency:
We’re going to be able to get to places the scientists want to go much more quickly,
Now we are able to drive through these more complex terrains instead of going around them: It’s not something we’ve been able to do before.
Although the AutoNav function is much more efficient than similar technology tested on the previous Mars rover of NASA (Curiosity), it doesn’t rule out human drivers entirely. Instead, it focuses on increasing the rover’s autonomy when necessary.
Vandi Verma, who is a senior engineer, rover planner and driver at JPL, said as cited by Space.com:
We have a capability called ‘thinking while driving,
The rover is thinking about the autonomous drive while its wheels are turning.
The Perseverance rover, which is also nicknamed Percy, is a car-sized rover designed to explore the Jezero crater from Mars. The rover is part of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, and it was built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The rover was launched into space on July 30, 2020, at 11:50 UTC. On February 18, 2021, there has been confirmation of the rover’s successful landing on the Red Planet. As of July 1st, 2021, the Perseverance rover was active on our neighbouring planet for 129 sols since landing, which is equivalent to 133 Earth days.