NASA’s Martian rover, nicknamed Perseverance, will be utilising Artificial Intelligence technology in its pursuit to determine whether life ever existed on Mars. The AI technology will be specifically used to control the rover’s 2m robotic arm, which is able to emit beams at rock samples which could potentially carry fossilised microbes, a sign of ancient life.
There is great detail involved in this process, with the instrument created to be able to project beams as small as a grain of salt, enabling it to delineate comprehensive textures in the ground and the rocks found on the surface.
This incredible accuracy naturally means that any deviation in targeting could substantially damage the validity and reliability of any findings and measurements. NASA has thus placed the instrument on a six-legged stand which allows it to be carried by the rover’s arm. The artificial intelligence deployed enables the instrument to automatically rotate on its axis in order to fine tune the X-ray beam’s direction.
“The hexapod figures out on its own how to point and extend its legs even closer to a rock target,” said Abigail Allwood, PIXL’s principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “It’s kind of like a little robot who has made itself at home on the end of the rover’s arm,” Allwood added.
It has been reported that the instrument is able to apply such slight movement in its direction control system that it can make adjustments to the X-ray spectrometer by 100 microns. A micron is one-millionth of a metre.
“PIXL is a night owl,” Allwood said. “The temperature is more stable at night, and that also lets us work at a time when there’s less activity on the rover,” she explained.
The Perseverance rover is scheduled to arrive on Mars on February 18. It was set on its journey in July.