Authors: Anessa Quintanilla
Press Release:
March 2021

With NASA’s Mars 2020 mission in full swing, California State University, Northridge’s Autonomy Research Center for STEAHM (ARCS) continues to support its initiatives with dedicated student fellows like Rimma Hamalainen, who has worked on two projects closely related to the mission. 

Hamalainen, an ARCS Associate majoring in Mathematics, has been involved in a multidisciplinary project focusing on an interactive visualization of hierarchical state machines (HSMs) for multi-agent autonomy with NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Currently, she is leading an ARCS team to analyze data sets based on images collected through a Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) from the surface of Mars. 

The PIXL, which captures the elemental composition of Mars’ surface, will help the team understand patterns within the data. The project is closely tied to the Mars 2020 Mission, which aims to gain more insight into the geological composition of Mars that can identify potential for life and even look for signs of ancient life itself. 

Aligning with NASA’s goal to explore life and geology on Mars, Hamalainen and her team’s project intends to gain a greater understanding into the planet’s elemental composition and lay the foundation for a visualization tool that will make it easier for researchers to study these surfaces. 

Through this project, Hamalainen has been able to work collaboratively with students and professionals across various disciplines, expand her knowledge in autonomous research, and contribute to a significant mission in space exploration. 

“From my perspective, the research I have worked on in ARCS has worked as a tremendous springboard for the undergraduate students in future research, whether that is in the industry or in academia,” said Hamalainen, “It also has taught me a lot, especially from the perspective of the research being very multidisciplinary, which I have come to appreciate.” 

The Autonomy Research Center for STEAHM Center

The Autonomy Research Center for STEAHM (ARCS) is a NASA-sponsored, chartered, Center of Excellence. Its mission is to combine multidisciplinary, university-wide knowledge and talent from faculty, students, and NASA scientists to conduct convergence research and collaboration using increasingly autonomous systems (IA). Learn more about ARCS and ways to engage by visiting