Knowing the characteristics of the place where we are, knowing if we are standing or sitting if our arms are extended or resting on our hips, are all necessary information to understand our state and the characteristics of the environment around us. This awareness is essential for moving safely. Just like us, even the rover engaged in space exploration missions must have the same knowledge and must also know where they are and the environment that surrounds them.
Curiosity rover, a space exploration vehicle built to move across the surface of Mars is currently working on Mars on a NASA mission of planet exploration called Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), saves in his memory in addition to the coordinates of its position and orientation also the state and direction of each of its articulations, which instrument towards the low and how much, for example, the APXS (Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer) is close to the ground. It also stores its knowledge of the environment, data such as how deep the slope is, where the large rocks are and where the rock protrudes dangerously. Curiosity processes these pieces of information before each movement to ensure a safer action. When the answer is “no,” or “maybe not,” the rover stands still. This conservative approach prevents Curiosity from hitting the rocks with its arm, moving on something dangerous or pointing an unprotected camera towards the sun. These security checks, which have kept Curiosity safe over the years, are the result of extensive engineering work that began well before the rover’s mission started.
In the course of its latest series of activities, it no longer clear where it was. Curiosity has lost its orientation and therefore unable to make a correct assessment of the actions to be taken, Curiosity stopped moving, freezing in position until it was not possible to restore the knowledge of the world around it. The rover never stopped sending information, so the specialists knew what had happened and for this reason, they managed to develop a recovery plan. A few days ago. Teams of engineers developed a solution to inform Curiosity of its status and to confirm it of what had happened. This action allowed Curiosity to recover its ability to make choices in full autonomy as well as enable engineers on the ground to analyze what happened to prevent a similar problem from happening again. This wise approach will help protect the rover in the future too.