Autonomous image analysis software wins NASA award
Autonomous software that has been operating on the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity since December 2009 has won NASA's 2011 Software of the Year award.
The Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science (AEGIS) software -- developed by engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, CA, USA) -- autonomously directs the rover's cameras to interesting science targets.
AEGIS was developed to enhance the usual targeting process involving scientists on the ground, which can require the autonomous vehicle to stay in the same place for a day or more while data are transmitted to Earth and targets are selected from preliminary images.
The AEGIS software analyzes images onboard, detects and prioritizes science targets in those images, and autonomously obtains novel, high-quality science data of the selected targets, within 45 minutes. No communication back to Earth is required.
AEGIS, which chooses science targets based on pre-specified criteria set by the mission science team, enables high-quality data to be collected more often and in a significantly reduced time frame.
The incorporation of AEGIS in the Mars Science Laboratory flight software is in progress. It is also being considered for future NASA missions.
-- By Dave Wilson, Senior Editor, Vision Systems Design