Getting a robotic exploration vehicle safely to a destination that’s hundreds of millions of miles away is an amazing feat in and of itself. And the good folks at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) should be congratulated for their current success with the latest machine sent to Mars to “look around” – the MSL Curiosity. However, getting the craft to Mars was just the start of the challenge: Once there, how do you control it?
In Curiosity’s case, the answer lies with technology derived from video games. JPL’s Robot Sequencing and Visualization Program (RSVP) is a virtual 3D environment rendered with Martian terrain features captured by the rover. Add a detailed 3D model of the rover itself to this world, along with some 3D Vision glasses and Quadro graphics cards, and the JPL team has what it needs to plan Curiosity’s navigation and perform all the tests it needs to ensure NASA gets the data it needs with the probe.
We’ve got a gallery of 3D images from Curiosity’s expedition that you can view (no, no little green people in any of them…yet). And this NVIDIA blog goes into more detail about the technology that's driving the rover.
(Images courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.)
NASA's rover simulation in action.