ESA’s MEXAR2 AI improves our exploration of Mars

By | May 2, 2008


Scientists at the European Space Agency are relishing in the commendations received over their new smart software being used to send back valuable data from the red planet. Back in January 2005 the ESA’s Mars Express slipped into orbit around Mars and began sending back data about the world’s dry, frozen landscape, its thin atmosphere and even readings about what may lie underneath the ground of the planet. The data was then transmitted back to Earth but had to be sent in a carefully controlled manner. If the sequence of transmission were out of order or human error came into the reception then the data would be forever lost, the reason being that the Mars Express orbiter only has a limited amount of memory storage capabilities since new data is constantly being written over the older data.

Until recently the only way for the data to be successfully received was by sending authorization to the spacecraft, a lengthy and elaborate series of commands that took up valuable manhours and was always on a different schedule as the two planets constantly moved through their orbits. Now the data retrieval method is much more easier thanks to a smart application called MEXAR2 which stands for Mars Express AI Tool. Developed by the Institute for Cognitive Science and Technology in Italy, the solution reduces the manpower required to complete the data dumps by half from the old method. It also frees up the computer and bandwidth time needed to communicate with the spacecraft and has automated some of the command decisions that were required from human operators – and that means no more loss of data. “With MEXAR2, any loss of stored data packets has been largely eliminated,” said Fred Jansen, the mission manager for Mars Express.

The ESA wants to continue using AI technology for its future robotic missions to Mars, such as its planetary rover mission, and it is also using the application for boosting productivity for the data it sends to the spacecraft.

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