Rovers are limited in time on Mars, so to optimize scientific returns, terrestrial geologists are developing new strategies for rover drivers to find the most “mature” areas for research.
Rovers have a huge advantage - they can independently explore the planet. But, unfortunately, their time is strictly limited. When a geological expedition is carried out on Earth, a team is assembled, completes the previous survey and is determined with the future place of work. However, on Mars scientists have fewer chances to outperform the apparatus. Therefore, the rover just travels from place to place without having scouts.
Although it should be noted that this method allowed the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, as well as the Curiosity Martian scientific laboratory to send an incredible amount of useful information. But, when it comes to specific functions, such as biosignature (one of the goals of Mars 2020), it will take an extra trip to make the search more efficient. Therefore, geologists recently published a study in which they discussed what can be achieved if rovers did a preliminary survey before embarking on the operation itself.
Opportunity has left traces on the planet for over 13 years.
NASA's veteran rovers Eileen Ingst said that preliminary research was done only a few times when Curiosity was heading to Pahrump Hills in 2014. Opportunity (exploring the planet since 2004) also made this maneuver.
“The idea is to get the most out of your investment,” said Ingst, a senior fellow at the Institute of Planetology. “While on Mars, we use incredibly expensive and complex resources to study geology. Therefore, it is important to be sure that we make the most appropriate decisions. ”
The study was conducted near sedimentary rock to the south of Green River (Utah). Two human “rovers” were to perform block observations, simply following the incoming instructions sent from the simulated flight control. They advanced a few feet forward, just as the rover will move when a remote command is given. One made a walking review and returned, and the second then immediately headed for the goal. The initial test showed that the “walking” apparatus allowed the team to bypass places that seemed interesting from afar, but in fact, were not unique near. For example, a clay pattern observed from orbit may simply be material weathered on top of a rock.
“It turns out that in the second pass you already have a certain picture or plan in your head and you are not going at random,” she said.
The method saves time and increases scientific returns. Ingst has another study that tracks the competition of three teams: the “walking rover,” the one that goes straight to the target, using traditional geological methods. The results are currently being analyzed and will be presented later.