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GPUs Power Part-Time Scientists’ Plan for Lunar Rover Autonomy

Today at the GTC 2012 conference, a team calling themselves the Part-Time Scientists presented plans for their GPU-powered lunar rover entry in the Google Lunar X Prize.

The autonomous navigation system of Asimov is a major technological leap. While the Russian Moon rovers Lunokhod 1 and 2 in the early 70s were fully controlled from Earth, today’s Mars rovers like NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover “Opportunity”, which has been tirelessly exploring the Red Planet since 2004, are autonomous. However, Opportunity requires nearly three minutes to process a pair of images – a delay that causes it to move at an average speed of just 1 cm/sec or less. New developments by the technology partnership between the DLR Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics (RMC) and the PTS have created, for the first time, an autonomous navigation system for a rover that has the capacity to process multiple images per second. The technology boosts a stereo camera that Asimov will use to calculate its own motion, generate a 2.5-dimensional environmental model, evaluate the site and determine a collision-free path – all in real time.

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