Preliminary Concepts for a long-range Mars Rover Navigation System Prototype based on a Mars Global Terrain Database
A recent paper proposed a detailed structure for a Mars Global Terrain Database (MGTDB), for use in research on Mars, and populated with data from the Mars Global Surveyor satellite, in polar orbit around Mars. The database design allowed for 16.5 meters resolution or better everywhere, at a cost of some 2,000 Gigabytes of data storage. An MGTDB also has another use, not envisaged in the original paper. It can be used as the key component in a Mars rover navigation system, to enable long-range rover navigation over the Martian terrain, and so obviate the lack of magnetic poles on Mars as a basis for navigation. This preliminary paper sets forth the basic architecture, as well as the basic hardware and software concepts, for such a rover navigation system. It also points out how a useful research prototype might be constructed in the absence of both a finished MGTDB and a viable long-range Mars rover. The paper also shows that some basic computer-science research would likely be needed, to determine two quite different optimum search algorithms. These algorithms are (a) a lost-search algorithm, which would be needed as a basis for a lost-search subsystem that could determine the rover's position when lost, and (b) a route-search algorithm, which would be needed as a basis for a route-search subsystem that could generate the optimum route between any two locations on the planet. If a future satellite-based Global Positioning System (GPS) for Mars, like that in use in Earth, were ever to render the lost-search subsystem obsolete, it would still have value as a risk-preventive resource.