Mars Curiosity to Receive Brain Transplant
After successful landing on Mars the Curiosity rover has been capturing images of regions we have never explored. The Curiosity will spend first weekend on Mars transitioning to software that is better suited for the task rover will venture for its mission. A few transitions it will undergo are driving and using its strong robotic arm.
The rover's 'brain transplant' will occur during a series of steps over the weekend through Aug. 13 and install a new version of software on both of the rover's redundant main computers.
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"We designed the mission from the start to be able to upgrade the software as needed for different phases of the mission," said Ben Cichy of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., chief software engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory 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."
A key capability in the new version is image processing to check for obstacles. This gives more autonomy to identify and avoid potential hazards and drive along a safe path. While the software installation is undertaken the MSL science team will analyze the images captured by Curiosity to characterize the local region and identify points of interest for further investigation.
Curiosity is slated to roam around the Gale Crater area for the next two years or more, attempting to determine whether Mars can or ever could support microbial life. Observations from orbit have identified clay and sulfate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a wet history.