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Scientific Programming
Volume 15 (2007), Issue 2, Pages 95-105

Performance Characterization of a Rover Navigation Algorithm Using Large-Scale Simulation

Richard Madison, Abhinandan Jain, Christopher Lim, and Mark Maimone

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, CA, USA

Received 22 June 2007; Accepted 22 June 2007

Copyright © 2007 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Autonomous rover navigation is a critical technology for robotic exploration of Mars. Simulation allows more extensive testing of such technologies than would be possible with hardware test beds alone. A large number of simulations, running in parallel, can test an algorithm under many different operating conditions to quickly identify the operational envelope of the technology and identify failure modes that were not discovered in more limited testing. GESTALT is the autonomous navigation algorithm developed for NASA's Mars rovers. ROAMS is a rover simulator developed to support the Mars program. We have integrated GESTALT into ROAMS to test closed-loop, autonomous navigation in simulation. We have developed a prototype capability to run many copies of ROAMS in parallel on a supercomputer, varying input parameters to rapidly explore GESTALT's performance across a parameter space. Using these tools, we have demonstrated that large scale simulation can identify performance limits and unexpected behaviors in an algorithm. Such parallel simulation was able to test approximately 500 parameter combinations in the time required for a single test on a hardware test bed.