Soon: ‘Seeker’ navigation system to pilot next Mars rover without humans

Scientists are designing a self-controlled navigation system that will pilot the next Mars Rover without any human pushing button and cover at least one kilometre in a day.

It will take the team of experts from Britain, France, and Canada seven months to complete the project, which will have an artificially intelligent “sat nav” that will drive the hi-tech vehicle.

Except, of course, on Mars, there are no GPS satellites to guide it, so it will be smart enough to do the whole thing itself.

The ‘Seeker’ navigation system is expected to speed up the vehicle immensely – sending a radio signal to Mars to control a vehicle takes more than half an hour.

Since the system will save so much time, it will allow a rover to find its way around the Red Planet, covering at least one kilometre a day.

The system will perform a range of key actions completely unaided by Mission Control or GPS-type technology including working out the precise location of the rover on Mars, identifying particular sites to visit on the planet and detecting and avoiding hazards.

It will also be able to navigate its way back to previously visited sites.

“The keys to Seeker’s success will be imagination, application and team work,” the Daily Mail quoted Kim Ward, the project director from RAL Space as saying.

“With radio signals to conventional rovers taking at least 30 minutes to travel between Earth and Mars, Seeker’s ability to work autonomously in hostile terrain will be crucial to extending our understanding of our planetary neighbour,” Ward said.

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The early developments of the new system were recently presented at STFC’s 7th Appleton Space conference today.

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