SAND-E (Semi-Autonomous Navigation for Detrital Environments) is a partnership with Texas A&M University on a NASA-funded project to study Mars-like volcanic sand environments in Iceland, in advance of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission to the red planet. The study will help NASA prepare for scientific studies of areas on Mars that are geologically similar to the field sites in Iceland, and determine if new exploration strategies, including increased rover autonomy, would benefit future missions.
An advanced version of our ASAS technology, an automated evaluation of terrain ahead of a rover, will be used during the simulated Mars rover missions in Iceland in 2019 and 2021 to determine ways to increase the scientific return of NASA’s Mars 2020 mission. The analogue missions will include a drone working in collaboration with the rover, to replicate scenarios anticipated for the Mars 2020 rover and helicopter. For these deployments, we use our Mission Control Software to enable real-time transmission of data from the rover in the field to the operations centers on-site. This allows us to seamlessly package the data from the rover and provide it to the science operations team in our simulated Mars operations cycles.
SAND-E is comprised of an expert team, led by Dr. Ryan Ewing, Associate Professor in Texas A&M University’s Department of Geology and Geophysics. The team also includes researchers from NASA Johnson Space Center, Purdue University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Reykjavik University. The project is funded by NASA’s Planetary Science and Technology Through Analog Research (PSTAR) program.
Mission Control is also excited to lead education and outreach for the project, including providing our Mission Control Academy experiential learning program to students in Houston and Ottawa.