The proposed innovations in planning can drive dramatic improvements in mission planning and operator awareness efficiency to enable highest-science-value robotic surface missions and enable future human exploration. These technologies open up new opportunities for cost-effective missions to Mars, the Moon, asteroids, and beyond. The immediate markets within NASA are for exploration and science missions to surface destinations on the Moon and Mars. Phase II development is in the context of a mission to the lunar pole (i.e., NASA's Lunar Resource Prospector mission, currently in Phase A). The proposed work could also be incorporated into ground data systems for current or future rovers on Mars, such as MSL and Mars 2020 to reduce operator workload and improve path planning results. With additional modifications to the vehicle model, it could be used to plan trajectories for vehicles that explore the surface of Near Earth Asteroids. The technology could also be applied to plan traverse routes for crewed transport vehicles. This work will serve the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate's need for exploration technology development and the Science Directorate's need for investigation of high-value targets at the lunar poles.
The commercial need is for efficient planning and intuitive planning particularly for those that operate in complicated environments. Planning technologies could benefit unexploded ordinance survey, Special Operation Forces, mining, transit planning, search and rescue operations, and agriculture. Unexploded Ordinance (UXO) is a quarter of a billion dollar a year industry encompassing surveying and disposal. In the US there are 16,000 UXOs sites with an EPA estimated cost of cleanup at least $14 billion. The worldwide need notably includes UXOs from WWI & WWII in France, Belgium, and Germany; approximately 80 million unexploded ordinances in Laos; and approximately 1 million in Lebanon. While the market is vast, manual techniques are labor intensive and costly. The technology proposed here can readily be integrated into planning for automated UXO survey to dramatically improve efficiency and reduce downtime. Unmanned vehicles play a rapidly expanding role in warfare. UGVs and UAVs offer a particularly good fit for resource-constrained planning. Streamlined coordination and planning of multiple robots is crucial to reduce operator workload and improve mission execution. DoD stealth operations, such as Special Operations Forces may use a similar planner for operations in changing environments with objectives of non-visibility to the enemy and communication link availability.