In the near future, the Perseverance Mars rover is waiting for an important test. The rover will have a “sprint”, during which it will try to cover more distance in a single month than any rover before it.
Perseverance’s goal is an ancient river delta — one of the best places on Mars to search for traces that hypothetical life could have left. But it’s not so easy to get there. On the way to the delta, the rover will have to overcome a five-kilometer area covered with craters, fields of sharp rocks and sandpits.
Perseverance should use the Autonav system to complete this route. This is an autonomous navigation system that allows the rover to independently build its route based on navigation images. Perseverance’s predecessors used similar tools, but AutoNav received a number of important improvements. One of them is the ability to take quick photos of the surrounding surface and analyze them in real time, that significantly increases the speed the rover can move. In addition, Perseverance received more accurate sensors and an additional computer designed for image processing. This allowed the system to increase performance.
Of course, Autonav cannot completely replace humans. NASA engineers are still going to choose the rover’s base route and mark potentially dangerous objects that it should avoid. But due to these improvements, Perseverance will be able to move at a much faster speed than other rovers, and reach the goal within a month.
Recall that NASA also plans to use the Ingenuity drone helicopter for air surveillance of the Perseverance path. Currently, the device is performing a series of flights that are expected to “reunite” it with the rover.
According to https://www.nasa.gov