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Larry Matthies: Robotic Mars Exploration

Wed., Mar. 24, 2021 7:00 p.m. - Wed., Mar. 24, 2021 8:00 p.m.

The Faculty of Science Department of Computer Science invites you to a virtual public lecture with alumnus Dr. Larry Matthies (’79 BSc Honours), whose job with NASA Jet Propulsion Lab allows him to personally participate in putting robots on other planets, like Perseverance on Mars. This is a public lecture series by alumni and friends of the Department of Computer Science. Please be sure to register in advance.


The Perseverance Mars rover landed in Jezero Crater, where we can see from orbit that a river flowed into the crater, which held a lake, and a delta formed at the mouth of the river. The mission of Perseverance is to explore around the delta to improve our understanding of the ancient climate and to examine the possibility that life or precursor molecules evolved there. The rover will also acquire a set of samples and leave them for a mission that the U.S. and Europe plan to send later this decade to bring the samples back to Earth. This sequence of missions is called the Mars Sample Return campaign. Perseverance also carries a small helicopter called Ingenuity, which is intended as a technology demonstration of the first heavier-than-air aircraft ever to attempt flight on another planet. This lecture will give a brief introduction to Mars exploration and these missions.

Dr. Larry Matthies has 39 years of experience in computer vision R&D for autonomous navigation of robotic ground and air vehicles on Earth and in space. He has been with NASA Jet Propulsion Lab since 1989, now as a Senior Research Scientist. He has pioneered development of many computer vision-related capabilities that had and will have high impact on robotic solar system exploration. Of all his experiences at NASA, he says that the most extraordinary was being at the 1997 landing of the first Mars rover (Sojourner). He was awarded the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal in 2007.

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