The individual works of Paul Backes (distributed and remote operations), Eric T. Baumgartner (manipulator control) and Larry Matthies (navigation systems) have advanced robotic technology, particularly rover operations, and made possible the scientific exploration of Mars. The three played individual roles in the overall integration of robotic technology used in space flight systems, particularly the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission Spirit and Opportunity rovers. The rovers are designed to carryout complex tasks safely, while exhibiting human-like qualities such as awareness, cognition and judgment. The contributions of Backes, Baumgartner and Matthies have broad significance to the robotics field in both terrestrial and space applications and have been widely cited in robotics literature.
Dr. Matthies, an associate member of IEEE, pioneered the development of algorithms for visual odometry and real-time 3D perception with stereo vision and contributed to algorithms for visual descent velocity estimation. These capabilities were incorporated into the MER mission, enabling landers to estimate horizontal velocity and rovers to detect obstacles and measure slip. Dr. Matthies’ work is the origin of the rovers’ visual abilities. He is currently supervisor, Computer Vision Group, and Senior Research Scientist at JPL. Dr. Matthies has twice received NASA’s Exceptional Achievement medal, holds two patents, and has published over 100 refereed papers. He holds a bachelor’s of science degree from the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, a master’s of mathematics from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, in computer science.