Electrical and computer architecture of an autonomous mars sample return rover prototype
Space truly is the final frontier. As man looks to explore beyond the confines of our planet, we use the lessons learned from traveling to the Moon and orbiting in the International Space Station, and we set our sights upon Mars. For decades, Martian probes consisting of orbiters, landers, and even robotic rovers have been sent to study Mars. Their discoveries have yielded a wealth of new scientific knowledge regarding the Martian environment and the secrets it holds. Armed with this knowledge, NASA and others have begun preparations to send humans to Mars with the ultimate goal of colonization and permanent human habitation. The ultimate success of any long term manned mission to Mars will require in situ resource utilization techniques and technologies to both support their stay and make a return trip to Earth viable. A sample return mission to Mars will play a pivotal role in developing these necessary technologies to ensure such an endeavor to be a successful one. This thesis describes an electrical and computer architecture for autonomous robotic applications. The architecture is one that is modular, scalable, and adaptable. These traits are achieved by maximizing commonality and reusability within modules that can be added, removed, or reconfigured within the system. This architecture, called the Modular Architecture for Autonomous Robotic Systems (MAARS), was implemented on the University of Alabama’s Collection and Extraction Rover for Extraterrestrial Samples (CERES). The CERES rover competed in the 2016 NASA Sample Return Robot Challenge where robots were tasked with autonomously finding, collecting, and returning samples to the landing site.