Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

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.

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

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.