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Autonomous science for an exomars rover-like mission

Woods, M. and Shawky, A. and Barnes, D. and Price, D. and Long, D. and Pullan, D. (2009) Autonomous science for an exomars rover-like mission. Journal of Field Robotics, 26 (4). pp. 358-390. ISSN 1556-4959

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Abstract

In common with other Mars exploration missions, human supervision of Europe's ExoMars Rover will be mostly indirect via orbital relay spacecraft and thus far from immediate. The gap between issuing commands and witnessing the results of the consequent rover actions will typically be on the order of several hours or even sols. In addition, it will not be possible to observe the external environment at the time of action execution. This lengthens the time required to carry out scientific exploration and limits the mission's ability to respond quickly to favorable science events. To increase potential science return for such missions, it will be necessary to deploy autonomous systems that include science target selection and active data acquisition. In this work, we have developed and integrated technologies that we explored in previous studies and used the resulting test bed to demonstrate an autonomous, opportunistic science concept on a representative robotic platform. In addition to progressing the system design approach and individual autonomy components, we have introduced a methodology for autonomous science assessment based on terrestrial field science practice.