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A three-agent robotic system for Mars exploration

Mars, also known as the red planet, has been the focus of numerous research studies, as some of its characteristics have sparked discussions about its possible inhabitability. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and a few other space agencies have thus sent a number of rovers and other spacecraft to Mars with the hope of better understanding its geology and environment.

NASA has recently been planning a new mission called Mars 2020, which entails sending a helicopter to Mars, alongside conventional ground rovers. While the main objective of this mission is to test the feasibility of operating the helicopter on the red planet, if successful, it could open up new possibilities for Mars exploration. In other words, this mission could pave the way toward other missions involving the deployment of Mars copters, which may be able to produce more information about the ground, terrain and obstacles ahead of the rovers.

Researchers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Eindhoven University of Technology have recently introduced the design for a three-agent robotic system that could further enhance future Mars explorations. This system, presented in a paper published in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, is composed of a Mars rover, a copter and an orbiter.

"In addition to conventional ground rovers, the Mars 2020 mission will send a helicopter to Mars," the researchers write in their paper. "The copter's high-resolution data helps the rover to identify small hazards such as steps and pointy rocks, as well as providing rich textual information useful to predict perception performance. In this letter, we consider a three-agent system composed of a Mars rover, copter and orbiter."

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