From R&D magazine on-line
The European Space Agency (ESA) assembled a top engineering team then challenged them to devise a way for rovers to navigate on alien planets. Six months later, a fully autonomous vehicle was charting its own course through Chile's Mars-like Atacama Desert.
The recent test of the Seeker full-scale rover was the outcome of gathering a multidisciplinary team at a single site, working against the clock to achieve a breakthrough.
"Their challenge was to demonstrate how a planetary rover—programmed with state-of-the-art software for autonomous navigation and making decisions—could traverse 6 km in a Mars-like environment and come back where it started," explained ESA's Gianfranco Visentin.So, don't expect it on a planet near you in the next 10 years or so, but still cool technology."ESA's ExoMars rover, due to land on Mars in 2018, will have state-of-the-art autonomy," added Gianfranco.
"However, it will not travel more than 150 m each martian day and not much more than 3 km throughout its mission.
"The difficulty comes with follow-on missions, which will require daily traverses of five to ten times longer.
"With longer journeys, the rover progressively loses sense of where it is.