NVIDIA today announced that NVIDIA Tesla GPUs are being used by a team of German scientists participating in a global competition to land a robotic rover on the moon by 2015.
Developed to foster a new era of lunar exploration, the Google Lunar X PRIZE offers the largest international incentive prize in history. A total of $30 million will be awarded to the first privately funded teams that safely land a rover on the surface of the moon, drive the rover 500 meters over the lunar surface, and transmit detailed video, images and data back to Earth for further study.
A team of 100 German scientists, engineers and developers has formed the Part-Time Scientists (PTS), one of 26 teams from around the world participating in the contest. To help ensure its success, the PTS team has deployed NVIDIA Tesla GPUs in several of the servers and workstations in its mission-control center where the Asimov rover will be operated. Tesla GPUs will accelerate the mission’s computationally intensive applications, such as simulating vehicle navigation, monitoring positions of the rover in real time, and processing and transmitting high-resolution video and images.
“NVIDIA GPUs will be instrumental in helping us land the Asimov rover safely and allowing us to calculate a wealth of detailed information to enhance our understanding about the lunar surface,” said Robert Böhme, team leader of the PTS team. “At the same time, we will demonstrate the amazing scientific accomplishments that are possible with modern, high-performance GPU technology.”
The PTS team will benefit from the Tesla GPUs at all stages of the mission. During preparation and planning, GPUs will be used to simulate millions of different mission scenarios. This will enable the team to improve launch and landing techniques by, for example, adjusting the timing and duration of thruster burns for course corrections, while minimizing the margin of error.
Once Asimov has reached its destination, the PTS team will use the computational power of Tesla GPUs to navigate and monitor the rover’s activities and generate highly detailed lunar maps from the transmitted stereoscopic 3D images.
Quickly processing and analyzing the massive volume of video produced by the Asimov – and sending back new navigational directions – is critical to the success of the mission. Any delay could divert Asimov from its correct course or, in the worst case, increase the chances of it hitting an obstacle that could force PTS to abort the mission.
With NVIDIA GPUs, PTS expects to achieve a 5-10X speed up in the processing of the massive video feeds produced by the rover. Only GPU-based computing systems have the computational power required to process and deliver this information cost-effectively in real time.