Alaska-based researchers collaborate with NASA

A view of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity gained from the top of the "Cape Tribulation" -- Photo Date: 1/6/2015 -- Photo: NASA
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU)- When Brendan Babb signed up for a course in Genetic Algorithms at UAA back in 2004, he was doing it just for fun. A data scientist and computer programmer by trade, Babb had no idea that his chance meeting with Professor Frank Moore would lead to an eventual collaboration with NASA.

In late 2018 and early 2019, the university received two separate patents for work done towards improving image decompression. During the research process, NASA was involved in determining the new method of decompression useful for opening images that had been transmitted back to Earth from the Mars rover. Babb says the process allows scientists to open these compressed files with up to 7 percent more clarity than methods used in the past.

"It's great for science... but if I did the eye doctor thing... better? better? it'd be hard for you to tell the difference," he said.

According to Babb, the patents will work on both images from past rovers, and anything sent back by the all-new rover which is set to launch next summer. While his spontaneous decision to attend the genetic algorithms course at UAA resulted in scientific advances, he believes that innovation can take place anywhere in the state.

"There's a lot of people in Alaska that have patents and inventions and a lot of that frontier attitude of just figuring out how to solve problems ... You don't know where it's going to take you... "

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