Ayanna Howard: Robot Wrangler

The next generation of Mars rovers will owe their brains to the fan of “The Bionic Woman” TV show

4 min read
Photo of Ayanna Howard

Mars on Earth: Ayanna Howard cradles a Sony AIBO robot used to test new software approaches, in JPL’s Mars Yard. Here, prototype Mars rover designs are put through their paces in a simulated Martian landscape.

Photo: Henry Blackham

NASA’s twin Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, have already rewritten the book on the Red Planet’s history, their amazing discoveries transmitted to an audience of millions. But is not content to let NASA rest on its laurels. She’s designing future generations of robotic explorers to bring back even more science for the buck. Her goal: a robot that can be dropped off on a planet and wander around on its own, eliminating the kind of intense supervision from Earth that Spirit and Opportunity require—their every move must be meticulously choreographed in advance and on a daily basis.

“I want to plop a rover on Mars and have it call back when it finds interesting science,” Howard says. “Like a geologist, it should wander around until it sees something that might be interesting. Then it should be able to investigate further and decide if it’s really interesting or just another rock.”

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8 min read
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Enel’s JuiceBox 240-volt Level 2 charger for electric vehicles.

Enel X Way USA

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Sue Brown

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Industrial Functional Safety Training from UL Solutions

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3 min read

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