In this paper, an ultra-fast smart vision system-on-a-chip design is proposed to provide effective solutions for real time machine vision applications by taking advantages of recent advances in integrated sensing/processing designs, electronic neural networks, advanced microprocessors and sub- micron VLSI technology. The smart vision system mimics what is inherent in biological vision systems. It is programmable to perform vision processing in all levels such as image acquisition, image fusion, image analysis, and scene interpretation. A system-on-a-chip implementation of this smart vision system is shown to be feasible by integrating the whole system into a 3-cm by 3-cm chip design in a 0.18- micrometer CMOS technology. The system achieves one tea- operation-per-second computing power that is a two order-of- magnitude increase over the state-of-the-art microcomputer and DSP chips. Its high performance is due to massively parallel computing structures, high data throughput rates, fast learning capabilities, and advanced VLSI system-on-a-chip implementation. This highly integrated smart vision system can be used for various NASA scientific missions and other military, industrial or commercial vision applications.