Washington: NASA engineers are working on new technologies that will help spacecrafts land on an alien planet or a comet in real time based on what they see before them.
One technology called the Autonomous Descent and Ascent Powered-flight Testbed (ADAPT) allows the team to approximate the high-speed landings that spacecraft experience when touching down on planets like Mars, the US space agency said in a statement.
Another technology called Lander Vision System (LVS) allows the spacecraft to determine its position relative to its specified landing site.
During descent, it acquires real-time images of the surface and compares them to previously acquired maps of the area - allowing it to identify its landing spot and change course without intervention from flight engineers, Engadget reported.
The NASA team is also testing a system called Guidance for Fuel-Optimal Large Diverts (G-FOLD).
It takes information from LVS about deviations from the intended landing spot and calculates the most fuel-efficient route to get there.
"A future spacecraft could use LVS and G-FOLD to first autonomously determine its location and then optimally fly to its intended landing site," said Nikolas Trawny, member of the project.
So far, the new systems have been tested successfully on Earth.