Mission Control Space Services Inc. (Mission Control) is pleased to announce 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. This 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.

“The need for greater autonomy using tools like machine learning and artificial intelligence will be critical to meet the needs of the next generation of space robots” said Dr. Michele Faragalli, Manager of Space Exploration and Advanced Technology at Mission Control.

Mission Control has developed software that enables automated evaluation of terrain ahead of a rover, which in previous field tests has successfully “warned” the rover when approaching hazardous terrain. This Autonomous Soil Assessment System was developed under contract with the Canadian Space Agency. Providing the technology for use by NASA researchers represents a commercialization of investment made by Canada in space technologies. Ewan Reid, President & CEO of Mission Control said, “this international collaboration is another great example of the benefits of investing in space technology.”

An advanced version of Mission Control’s software will be used during the simulated Mars rover missions in Iceland in 2019 and 2020 to determine whether it could increase the scientific return of NASA’s upcoming 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.

Mission Control is proud to be part 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 (MCA) experiential learning program to students in Houston and Ottawa. “During MCA missions, students will work in teams to design and execute a rover mission using a real Mars rover prototype, as if it were on the surface of Mars” said Dr. Melissa Battler, Mission Control’s Manager of Space Science, Education and Outreach. Mission Control will also lead a social media campaign for the project.

About Mission Control, http://www.missioncontrolspaceservices.com 

Mission Control is a space exploration and robotics company with a focus on mission operations, onboard autonomy and artificial intelligence. We develop end-to-end robotic command and control software. Our technology allows customers to operate and automate robots deployed in harsh and remote environments – like the Moon, Mars or even here on Earth – improving the autonomy, productivity, safety, and scientific return of missions. We are also committed to inspiring the next generation of explorers through our immersive technology-based education program, Mission Control Academy, which allows students to operate a real rover, as if it were on Mars. How can we help you navigate the newspace landscape?