Curiosity Rover Getting Brain Transplant as Driving Smarts are Installed

Posted on August 10, 2012

Curiosity Gale Landing Site Gray

NASA reports that Curiosity will be getting a "brain transplant" over the weekend. New software will be installed on the rover that will transition rover for tasks ahead, such as driving and using its robotic arm. A key capability in the new version is image processing to check for obstacles. This allows for longer drives by giving the rover more autonomy to identify and avoid potential hazards and drive along a safe path the rover identifies for itself.

Ben Cichy of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., chief software engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory mission, says, "We designed the mission from the start to be able to upgrade the software as needed for different phases of the mission. The flight software version Curiosity currently is using was really focused on landing the vehicle. It includes many capabilities we just don't need any more. It gives us basic capabilities for operating the rover on the surface, but we have planned all along to switch over after landing to a version of flight software that is really optimized for surface operations."

Curiosity recently beamed back a color panorama of the landing site. You can see a full size version of the panorama here.

Photo: NASA/JPL