Curiosity Successfully Uses Autonomous Navigation
The Mars Curiosity Rover has now officially had its training wheels removed. Yesterday, NASA's JPL confirmed that for the first time, Curiosity has used autonomous navigation, an ability which allows the rover to analyze the safety of routes across the Red Planet. Autonomous Navigation allows Curiosity to analyze the images taken as it trundles across Mars, helping it to identify obstacles and calculate a safe driving path.
Autonomous Navigation or 'AutoNav' will help Curiosity succeed with the major mission goal of reaching Mount Sharp, a 3 mile high mound of layered rock. Curiosity is already en-route to Mount Sharp, but with around 2 month's left of its journey AutoNav is helping Curiosity to reach its destination safely. During Tuesday's first run out of AutoNav, Curiosity was able to fill in the blanks for 33 feet of a 111 foot journey through a depression in the planet's surface. Ultimately, AutoNav will give the Curiosity team more visibility of the Rover's path to Mount Sharp, which has been mapped out by NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Curiosity still has rough 4.8 miles to travel before reaching its destination, however, this figure could go up or down depending on the rover's safety assessment of certain parts of the route.