Cloud computing is helping to keep NASA's Perseverance Mars rover on track

Amazon Web Services touts space credentials from Earth-bound cloud infrastructure.

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Panorama, taken on 20 February, 2021, by the Navcams aboard NASA's Perseverance Mars rover.

Image: NASA

Amazon Web Services (AWS) has explained the role of cloud computing in processing data sent back from NASA's Perseverance explorer on Mars.

During Perseverance's mission on Mars, the science and engineering data will be processed and hosted in AWS. The Mars Rover team is receiving hundreds of images from Mars each day from a record number of cameras, resulting in thousands of images over Perseverance's time on the planet; using the cloud helps NASA Jet Propulsion Lab to store, process, and distribute this high volume of data, according to AWS.

AWS is processing data from Mars on behalf of NASA, helping inform how the Mars rover handles the terrain. 

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"The rover requires visibility to drive, so it is important for the team to be able to send the next batch of instructions back to the rover within a specific timeframe. The increased efficiency will allow Mars 2020 to accomplish its ambitious goal of collecting more samples and driving longer distances during the prime mission, compared to previous rovers," AWS expained

The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is scoping out the geology of the red plant and is looking for signs of ancient life. The mission launched on July 30 and will collect and store rock and soil samples that could be returned to Earth in the future. 

Besides collecting physical samples, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Perseverance mission is a roving smartphone packed with sensors, such as a cameras and microphones, to collect data. 

But why would the NASA mission need microphones on Mars?

"The sensors will gather scientific data like atmospheric information, wind speeds, and weather. The microphones will collect the sounds of the planet. This data will be processed by JPL and made publicly available so viewers can explore Mars alongside NASA JPL," AWS states. AWS is also providing a 3D view of Mars from the perspective of Perseverance. 

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Cloud computing is far from the only technology being used by the project; there is also a significant role for Linux and open-source technologies.

The AWS contribution to NASA's mission matches up with Amazon's former CEO Jeff Bezos' space ambitions with his rocket company, Blue Origin.