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NASA Improves Mars Curiosity Rover with Latest Software Upgrades

April 14 (UPI) – NASA has implemented a significant software upgrade to the Mars Curiosity rover, aiming to improve its mobility and minimize wear on its wheels. This update marks the first major upgrade since 2016 and encompasses over 180 changes.

Curiosity’s imaging operations were paused between April 3 and April 7 to facilitate the update. “This is a major software update and we had to make sure we did it right,” said Kathya Zamora-Garcia, Curiosity Project Manager.

 

Unlike its newer counterpart, Perseverance, Curiosity has to stop moving to process the imagery it collects. Engineers stated that the update would considerably enhance Curiosity’s performance by allowing it to engage in more “thinking while driving.” This will reduce the time spent processing images, enabling the rover to spend more time on the move. However, Curiosity’s efficiency will still fall short of Perseverance’s capabilities.

“This won’t let Curiosity drive as quickly as Perseverance, but instead of stopping for a full minute after a drive segment, we’re stopping for just a moment or two,” explained Jonathan Denison, Curiosity Engineering Operations Team Chief.

 

The update also includes an algorithm designed to calculate the optimal speed for the rover to traverse rough terrain while causing minimal damage to its wheels. The wheels have exhibited signs of wear after more than a decade of use on Mars.

 

This software upgrade follows a report published in Nature Communications in February, which argued that NASA’s Mars rovers may lack the necessary equipment to detect life. The report highlighted that the instruments aboard the rovers are often inadequate for detecting organic molecules.

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