NASA to test autonomous landing system for Moon, Mars

Blue Origin's New Shepard booster landing.   | Photo Credit: Blue Origin

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Nasa is testing autonomous landing and hazard-avoiding technologies for safer touch down on the surfaces of Moon and Mars.

“With NASA planning robotic and crewed missions to new locations on the Moon and Mars, avoiding landing on the steep slope of a crater or in a boulder field is critical to helping ensure a safe touch down for surface exploration of other worlds,” NASA said in release.

The space agency is testing both hardware and software as part of its Safe and Precise Landing – Integrated Capabilities Evolution (SPLICE) system.

The system includes a camera to take pictures of the landing, a high-speed computer to process the images along with pre-loaded satellite pictures, and several algorithms that analyses real-time data to determine location and to navigate the craft for safe landing.

SPLICE hardware undergoing preparations for a vacuum chamber test.

SPLICE hardware undergoing preparations for a vacuum chamber test.   | Photo Credit: NASA


Three of SPLICE’s four main sub-systems will have their first integrated test flight on Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket during an upcoming mission. The fourth component, a hazard detection lidar, will be tested later via ground and flight tests, NASA said.

“Safely and precisely landing on another world still has many challenges,” John Carson, Technical Integration Manager, said. “There’s no commercial technology yet that you can go out and buy for this. Every future surface mission could use this precision landing capability, so NASA's meeting that need now.”

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2020 3:43:50 PM |

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