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Curiosity Rover Being Upgraded With Autonomous Sensor Program 45

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the intelligent-agents-strike-back dept.
DevotedSkeptic writes "Curiosity will be getting a software upgrade called Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science (AEGIS) which will allow it to take on the go photos to save precious time while exploring our red neighbor. Another interesting feature AGEIS may be able to provide is the ability for Curiosity to call home when it sees something interesting. It won't be a quick upgrade: AEGIS, which has been used on the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity since 2009, will be installed on Curiosity in the next nine to 12 months, Estlin said in an interview with InformationWeek. The AEGIS software, developed by JPL, was named NASA's 'software of the year' in 2011. Opportunity uses the software to take a wide-angle image with a low-resolution camera, then picks out rocks in the image to see if there's something of interest. If so, it takes a high-resolution image using an on-board science camera that's capable of zooming in on the subject. The software has potential beyond picture taking. Its see-and-react code could be adapted to other instruments." There's a paper on the software as used in the Opportunity rover.
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Curiosity Rover Being Upgraded With Autonomous Sensor Program

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  • language (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    increased science, what does that even mean?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @08:11AM (#41448053)

    Think bricking your phone was bad..

  • by Comboman (895500) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @08:17AM (#41448087)

    It won't be a quick upgrade, AEGIS, which has been used on the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity since 2009, will be installed on Curiosity in the next nine to 12 months

    Curiosity launched on November 26, 2011. If Opportunity has been using AEGIS since 2009, why couldn't it have been included in Curiosity from the start instead of this 12 month download over a slow connection? It's bad enough that video game companies push stuff out the door and then rely on release-day patches but I expect better from NASA.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The OS was used for landing the rover. It won't be doing that anymore.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @08:30AM (#41448169)

      ...If Opportunity has been using AEGIS since 2009, why couldn't it have been included in Curiosity from the start instead of this 12 month download over a slow connection? It's bad enough that video game companies push stuff out the door and then rely on release-day patches but I expect better from NASA.

      Simple. To save weight. Them bits are heavy, cheaper to send them via radio than launch them with the craft.

    • by speckman (2511208)
      I was wondering this too. They already knew it worked great ON MARS before they sent this. So uh, install it when it takes a second instead of a year? Seems like a no-brainer. So there must be something missing here because I'm pretty sure the folk at JPL have brains... big ones.
    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater&gmail,com> on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @09:31AM (#41448589) Homepage

      Curiosity launched on November 26, 2011. If Opportunity has been using AEGIS since 2009, why couldn't it have been included in Curiosity from the start instead of this 12 month download over a slow connection?

      Off the top of my head, I can think of two reasons. First, until it landed Curiosity's computer served as the flight control computer and didn't even have it's full surface/science package installed. That's what the big software upgrade right after landing was all about - to clear out the flight control package and replace it with the surface/science routines. Second, I suspect they want some operational experience (on Opportunity) with the new system and some experience (on Curiosity) with the basic surface/science software package and some idea of how the hardware performs before committing to a new system. Odds are that Curiosity's baseline was frozen in 2010, long before sufficient information existed to write (let alone trust) the new software.
       
      Such a slow rollout is pretty common outside of commercial (consumer) software - because the costs of getting it wrong are so high. Especially in the case of something like Curiosity, which is a huge o' dollars of irreplaceable hardware with a limited lifespan and one shot at getting the science data. This isn't Ice Jelly Gummy Doughnut Candy with the fanboi's whining and pissing and moaning because their perfectly good hardware doesn't have the latest bling and threatening to move to another computer/phone/toy. FWIW, the software for the system I worked on in the Navy typically spent six months to a year installed on a trainer, followed by another six months installed on one or two hulls before committing it to the entire Fleet.
       
      Also, the article notes that it will be installed in, not over, the next nine to twelve months. Given that they replaced nearly the entire software package right after landing, the bandwidth available is more than sufficient to the task. Even so, they'll likely make use of most of that bandwidth on the important tasks of getting the science down rather than the secondary task of installing non essential software upgrades.
       

      It's bad enough that video game companies push stuff out the door and then rely on release-day patches but I expect better from NASA.

      Everything is easy to those that don't have to do the work and aren't accountable for the results.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        also : Bricking Curiosity 1 year from now would hardly be a mainstream news so they are not giving Congress a stick to beat them up with.

    • by tolgyesi (1240062)
      Due to the high radiation, they can not use high density memory chips. At first the landing control software filled it completely. Only after the landing did they replace it with the drivers for the motors and cameras so it could start moving. I suppose the actual upload does not need so much time, it must be a lot of hacking on the software in the meantime, testing and approval.
    • Probably because it wasnt ready yet? Its safer to iron the bugs out here on earth than bricking your rover on Mars. Would you rather have waited 12 months for them to launch once they got all the bugs worked out?
  • by veganboyjosh (896761) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @08:34AM (#41448197)
    Does this mean that @SadMarsRover will be able to get his instagram on again?
  • I say fire more drones!!! Let's get a Tonka set over there. Someone float me a couple of billion dollars. I will set us up some Tonka toys over there. Hell yeah, they will pay for themselves pronto. Rent time out on them to uber rich people. AND do some major exploration and set up some communications arrays. We need broadband there, right? And the moon. Moon Base Tonkas as well.

    Look, we need the entire race of humans putting some funtime facetime in on drone control. Human minds are some awesome things. Ch

    • Not sure if I agree or disagree with anything you said - just wanted to make the observation that NASA et al would definitely get more public funding if they used the words like Tonka more, especially if combined with standard advertising prefixes - maybe "Tonka Mega Launch System"?

      No one male would object to slightly higher taxes or a one-off levy to pay for that.

      It would make more sense than continually reusing names - according to the wiki [wikipedia.org], AEGIS is a military system, was the original OS on the Apollo mi

      • OK I just realised I suggested hiring a marketing person for something. Please accept my sincere apologies.

      • by cusco (717999)
        IIRC, the reason that giant strip mining equipment looks like Tonka toys is because the original designer was considering what his mega-dump truck should look like, saw his kids toys and used that for inspiration. Might be fun to see if Tonka, Lego and Mattel were interested in sponsoring part of a moon rover based on their toys.
  • by Chrisq (894406) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @08:42AM (#41448227)
    Is there some form of "reset to factory defaults" option that is non-programmable - i.e. built into the firmware? I would imagine that it is a real nail-biting time for the developers if there is a possibility of bricking a mars rover!
  • rocks (Score:5, Funny)

    by jamesh (87723) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @08:53AM (#41448283)

    "Hi NASA, I heard you like rocks so I took this picture of a rock. Hope it's good. Tell me if you want me to take a photo if I see another alien" - Curiosity

  • http://www.heise.de/ct/schlagseite/2012/19/gross.jpg [heise.de]

    Translation: Water! Water! Sensors detect a waterlike substance! And where there's water, there could be life, too ...

  • I was going to joke that they couldn't install it before launch because it took them this long to come up with the acronym.
  • So NASA has created an autonomous robot with nacent thinking capabilities. Did I mention the laser? Good thing this is on Mars! Robocolipses start this way.

    • 2013: After a Software Update to the Curiosity Rover, the Rover begins acting independently of NASA's control. All attempts to reset the rover fail.
      2035: The first manned mission to Mars lands successfully.

      Curiosity has been waiting...

      Okay, it's sort of a rip-off of Red Planet [imdb.com]. Maybe add in a little Star Trek: The Motion Picture [imdb.com] as Curiosity dismantles the various other landers on Mars for parts or something.

  • by slew (2918) on Tuesday September 25, 2012 @11:17AM (#41449805)

    Sigh-of-relief... My first reading of this was, maybe Nasa was reusing Aegis [wikipedia.org] for some sort of swords/plowshares purpose to somehow to control the rover. I guess that isn't the case, and it's just a fancy name for Rover-software 2.0...

    The reason that rang a bell with me was a bit of trivia I remembered. One of the first deployed Aegis system was the USS Yorktown [wikipedia.org]. Apparently, the Aegis software was deployed on WindowNT which of course had lots of stability problems. Also the system software itself wasn't that great. For example, when someone accidentally entered some bad data, it caused a divide-by-zero error which caused the software to crash and the ship had to be towed back into port. I think Curiosity would have a hard time being "towed" back to port...

    Fortunatly, it isn't the same software, but Nasa has a propensity to tempt fate with unlucky symbols (Apollo 13, Challenger). Let's hope this isn't one of those times...

    • the Aegis software was deployed on WindowNT which of course had lots of stability problems. Also the system software itself wasn't that great. For example, when someone accidentally entered some bad data, it caused a divide-by-zero error which caused the software to crash and the ship had to be towed back into port.

      Not only does the AEGIS system not run on PC hardware, it doesn't control the ship either.

    • [...] Nasa has a propensity to tempt fate with unlucky symbols (Apollo 13, Challenger).

      Apollo 13, okay. But Challenger?

      I always thought Discovery [wikipedia.org] wasn't the best choice of names...

  • Why doesn't NASA just buy that motivation engine from Lucas Arts? That way, if the damned thing rolls off a cliff it will try to grab onto something. Hell, it probably won't even get near the edge in the first place, getting a funny scared feeling in its wiener.

  • "JPL developed AEGIS on Linux-based systems, then tested the software on research rovers" .. link [informationweek.com]

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