The Robotics Institute

RI | Seminar | September 10

Robotics Institute Seminar, September 10
Time and Place | Seminar Abstract | Speaker Biography | Speaker Appointments

The Mars Exploration Rovers: Driving Autonomously on Mars

Dr. Mark Maimone

Jet Propulsion Laboratory

California Institute of Technology



Time and Place

Mauldin Auditorium (NSH 1305)
Refreshments 3:15 pm
Talk 3:30 pm



NASA successfully landed two mobile robot geologists on the surface of Mars in January 2004: the Spirit and Opportunity Mars Exploration Rovers.  Their primary goal was to find evidence of past water at Gusev Crater and Meridiani Planum, two geologically distinct sites on opposite sides of the planet.  Although the achievement of their successful landings stands out as a technological tour de force, it was their ability to navigate while on the surface of Mars that enabled both rovers to succeed in their primary goals.


Driving was done either in a very directed way (following a path chosen by human Rover Drivers), or in an autonomous mode where the rover was allowed to decide for itself whether and where to drive. This autonomous navigation capability enabled the vehicles to drive safely even through areas never before seen on Earth: more than 1500 meters of the rovers' combined distance was driven autonomously.


This mission has demonstrated groundbreaking use of several key NASA-sponsored Robotics technologies.  The MER rovers are the first spacecraft to use passive stereo vision processing for hazard detection, dense traversability analysis for onboard terrain assessment and safe path selection, and feature-tracking Visual Odometry for position estimation.  Each MER vehicle has also driven farther in one day than Sojourner did during its three month lifetime.


Come see pictures from Mars, learn about the surface autonomy software, and hear hints of what's in store for future Mars missions.

Speaker Biography


Dr. Mark Maimone is a Machine Vision researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a division of the California Institute of Technology.  He earned his Ph.D. in Computer Science at CMU in 1996, and was then a Post-doctoral Research Associate at the Robotics Institute, supervising the 1996 Lunar Rover field trials and serving as Navigation and Software Lead for the 1997 Atacama Desert Trek.


Mark has worked at JPL since 1997, initially on the Long Range Science Rover, Planetary Dexterous Manipulator, and Pioneer Vision System for Chornobyl Inspection projects, delivering 3D vision systems for autonomous robotic operations and mapping.  A member of the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Flight Software team since 2000, he designed and implemented the Autonomous Surface Navigation capabilities on the MER vehicles.  Mark is now part of the MER Operations team, planning and reviewing Mars Rover activities daily.


Speaker Appointments

For appointments, please contact Martial Hebert

The Robotics Institute is part of the School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University.