Autonomous Mars Rover AI: Navigating Terrain and Searching for Water

Categories: Life In SpaceMars

Mars is today a desolate, dry planet that when seen from a distance appears to resemble our home planet of Earth very little. However, when approaching Mars’ orbit we can see on the surface what could have been ancient, now dried out lakes and canyons, suggesting that Mars may have harbored—three or four million years ago—not only water but also life. Life in space is tough; it’s highly complicated for humans to survive out there, it’s risky, dangerous and reaching some of the closest planets could take many years, so in an effort to facilitate the research of other worlds, multiple space agencies (NASA, CSA, ESA, and so on) have been designing robots—or, as they are typically called, rovers—for the exploration and research of planets.

A Mars Rover is an automated motor vehicle that is loaded up with cameras to analyze its surroundings, research instruments to dig in and maybe analyze interesting rocks, communication equipment with which to send pictures and data and receive commands, solar panels to provide energy to itself, and so on.

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Rovers have the task of exploring Mars and collecting significant data that will hopefully lead to the conclusion of the existence of water on the planet in the past—or maybe to the discovery of ancient life.

Mars Rover curiosities tend to move very slowly, at nearly two inches per second (approximately 0.09 miles per hour). After all the trouble and cost that is involved when taking a rover to Mars, engineers prefer to play it safe and drive carefully; no one would like to see a .

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5 billion rover upside down because it was driving too fast. Another important point: most rovers receive a daily set of commands or instructions from the team on Earth; these instructions tell the rover where to go or what to do.

In this sense, one could say that classic rover are not as autonomous as we might think; they do of course include some autonomous behavior because the team on Earth is not on Mars and cannot watch their every step live. Therefore, the AI of the rover takes care of deciding when a rock is too big to go over (obstacle) or when the color and texture of rock make it interesting to be examined. One could say that rover is sort of autonomous and follow orders very well, kind of like human soldiers do.

The mission of the rover is a two-sided job; on one side we have the engineers on Earth, planning their daily moves, their large-scale strategies, and so forth, and on the other side we have the rovers, executing these actions, exploring, collecting data, and sending it back to Earth. In this blog, we will be demonstrating how to develop an AI for a completely autonomous Mars Rover Curiosity that will consider obstacles in the terrain and will be searching for water under a hybrid architecture that includes a BDI (Beliefs, Desires, Intentions) deliberative mechanism and uses statistics and probabilities for injecting itself with new beliefs that will be drawn as conclusions from its state (past history).

Note Mars is usually known as the Red Planet because of its reddish tint in the night sky. In general, Mars is mostly rust colored because of the iron in its soil. When exposed to the small amount of oxygen in the Martian atmosphere, the iron oxidizes, or rusts. That “rust dust” can also blow into the air, turning the sky into a peach color.

Updated: Jan 29, 2024
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Autonomous Mars Rover AI: Navigating Terrain and Searching for Water. (2024, Jan 29). Retrieved from

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