A View from MIT TR Editors

Roving Mars, One Step at a Time

Spirit has taken its first sample of Martian dust, and soon it will start roving around for evidence of what used to be running water. In three days the next rover, Opportunity, will land, unfold, reach out and finally start…

  • January 21, 2004

Spirit has taken its first sample of Martian dust, and soon it will start roving around for evidence of what used to be running water. In three days the next rover, Opportunity, will land, unfold, reach out and finally start moving around–this time on the opposite side of the planet. NASA has made a detailed computer simulation of how the rover navigates. (The more technical stuff comes in the second half.)

Time is critical. Martian dust will slowly build up on the rover’s solar arrays. It will eventually block the energy needed to recharge the batteries that keep the rover alive. The rover has to move as quickly as possible to interesting places without the need to wait for orders from Earth. The trick is to make it move automatically. And the best way to do that is not to try to plan a long journey across the Martian surface all at once, but rather to analyze just a small portion of the landscape ahead. NASA provides frequent updates of the rover’s status.

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Basic.
  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning magazine and daily delivery of The Download, our newsletter of what’s important in technology and innovation.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Bimonthly home delivery and unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website.

    The Download. Our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation.

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.