Tricky Terrain: Helping to Assure a Safe Rover Landing

Mars 2020’s Perseverance rover is equipped with a lander vision system based on terrain-relative navigation, an advanced method of autonomously comparing real-time images to preloaded maps that determine the rover’s position relative to hazards in the landing area. Divert guidance algorithms and software can then direct the rover around those obstacles if needed. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

How two new technologies will help Perseverance, NASA’s most sophisticated rover yet, touch down onto the surface of Mars this month.

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — After a nearly seven-month journey to Mars, NASA’s Perseverance rover is slated to land at the Red Planet’s Jezero Crater Feb. 18, 2021, a rugged expanse chosen for its scientific research and sample collection possibilities.

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JPL’s Terrain-Relative Navigation Technology Set to Launch on Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover

NASA Press Release

The Technology

Terrain-Relative Navigation (TRN) technology from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) enables pin-point landing and large hazard avoidance for crewed and robotic lander vehicles. A camera captures images during vehicle descent, which are subsequently matched to orbital maps stored onboard the lander. Matching images to multiple known terrain features enables automated determination of the lander’s position relative to the terrain.

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