Each rover will be equipped with a small computer and a radio wireless to collect 3D imagery. Although none of the rover's will be able collect as much data as the larger one, it is possible to deploy several at once and reduce the chance of a disastrous mission failure.
CADRE was created at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California. It was then tested at the Simulated Lunar Operations Laboratory (SLOPE), NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland. SLOPE is also the lab that tested VIPER, Volatiles Investigating Polar Explorer Rover (a mobile robot that will launch in November 2023 to search for frozen water on Mars).
The project's goal is to prevent the same fate as NASA's Mars rover Spirit in 2009. This was a nightmare for space exploration enthusiasts.
Spirit was one of two rovers that were sent to Mars from opposite sides in 2004. It provided some of the best views of the Red Planet ever captured by mankind. Five years into the mission, Spirit's wheels became stuck in Martian sand. Although NASA engineers tried for eight months to get Spirit to move, it was ultimately relegated as a stationary science platform after numerous failed attempts.
SLOPE simulates unique terrains that the new rovers must navigate, including the lunar soil and the Martian rock surface. Researchers use motion capture technology, which involves a pair stereo cameras to create thousands upon thousands of 3D photos. This allows them to measure the speed of each rover and track its tire movements. It also helps them predict how soil might react.
Schepelmann says that this system allows us to measure the traction performance. We were able to measure how each robot part moves.
Wolfgang Fink, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer engineering at Arizona, studies autonomous exploration systems. He says that although rovers like Curiosity or Perseverance were limited in autonomy, shifting to full autonomy through projects such as CADRE will enable humanity to explore places we may never have otherwise.
Communication between Earth and the Moon takes on average only seconds. However, it can take minutes to send a message from Mars. Communication between mission control and any lander/rover would take hours. This means that any unexpected problem could endanger the entire mission. More autonomy is important the further we travel from home.