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Software Finds the Best Way to Stick a Mars Landing


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A self-portrait of the Curiosity Mars rover.

A new software tool for computer-aided discovery could help planners at the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration decide where future Mars missions should land.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed software that could inform the selection of landing sites for scientific expeditions to Mars.

The tool automatically generates maps of favorable sites based on available geology and terrain data, along with a list of scientific priorities and engineering limitations that users specify.

MIT's Victor Pankratius and Guillaume Rongier created the software, and found it identified Mars landing sites that have been considered in the past, as well as highlighting other promising sites that were seldom suggested.

The program depends on a probability-based, non-binary fuzzy logic scheme, and the team employs related algorithms to plot out initial favorability maps of possible sites gridded into individual cells.

For each cell, the software calculates the probability that the site is favorable, producing a color-graded map and then applying a fast marching algorithm to chart paths a rover can take over a given terrain after landing.

From MIT News
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