The Mars-data repository could serve several purposes, noted JPL’s Annie Didier, who worked on the Perseverance version of AI4Mars. “With this algorithm, the rover could automatically select science targets to drive to,” she said. It could also store a variety of images onboard the rover, then send back just images of specific features that scientists are interested in, she said.
That’s on the horizon; scientists may not have to wait that long for the algorithm to benefit them, however. Before the algorithm ever makes it to space, it could be used to scan NASA’s vast public archive of Mars data, allowing researchers to find surface features in those images more easily.
Ono noted it’s important to the AI4Mars team to make their own dataset publicly available so that the entire data science community can benefit.
“If someone outside JPL creates an algorithm that works better than ours using our dataset, that’s great, too,” he said. “It just makes it easier to make more discoveries.”
More About the Mission
A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).
Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.
The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.
JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.