The Mobility Flight Software, running on computers aboard the Mars Explorer Rover (MER) robotic vehicles Spirit and Opportunity, affords the robustness and flexibility of control to enable safe and effective operation of these vehicles in traversing natural terrain. It can make the vehicles perform specific maneuvers commanded from Earth, and/or can autonomously administer multiple aspects of mobility, including choice of motion, measurement of actual motion, and even selection of targets to be approached. Motion of a vehicle can be commanded by use of multiple layers of control, ranging from motor control at a low level, direct drive operations (e.g., motion along a circular arc, motion along a straight line, or turn in place) at an intermediate level to goal-position driving (that is, driving to a specified location) at a high level.

The software can also perform highlevel assessment of terrain and selection of safe paths across the terrain: this involves processing of the digital equivalent of a local traversability map generated from images acquired by stereoscopic pairs of cameras aboard the vehicles. Other functions of the software include interacting with the rest of the MER flight software and performing safety checks.

This program was written by Mark Maimone and Jeffrey Biesiadecki of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This software is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Karina Edmonds of the California Institute of Technology at (626) 395-2322. Refer to NPO-41261.


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the September, 2007 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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