Recovery policies for safe exploration of lunar permanently shadowed regions by a solar-powered rover


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The success of a multi-kilometre drive by a solar-powered rover at the lunar south pole depends upon careful planning in space and time due to highly dynamic solar illumination conditions. An additional challenge is that the rover may be subject to random faults that can temporarily delay long-range traverses. The majority of existing global spatiotemporal planners assume a deterministic rover-environment model and do not account for random faults. In this paper, we consider a random fault profile with a known, average spatial fault rate. We introduce a methodology to compute recovery policies that maximize the probability of survival of a solar-powered rover from different start states. A recovery policy defines a set of recourse actions to reach a safe location with sufficient battery energy remaining, given the local solar illumination conditions. We solve a stochastic reach-avoid problem using dynamic programming to find an optimal recovery policy. Our focus, in part, is on the implications of state space discretization, which is required in practical implementations. We propose a modified dynamic programming algorithm that conservatively accounts for approximation errors. To demonstrate the benefits of our approach, we compare against existing methods in scenarios where a solar-powered rover seeks to safely exit from permanently shadowed regions in the Cabeus area at the lunar south pole. We also highlight the relevance of our methodology for mission formulation and trade safety analysis by comparing different rover mobility models in simulated recovery drives from the LCROSS impact region.
Energy-aware planning,Reachability analysis,Extraterrestrial mobility,Field robotics
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