Mars Curiosity Rover Project
Over the Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 semester, WCC student Tianna Barber, under the mentorship of Dr. Joseph Ciotti and Dr. Peter Mouginis-Mark analyzed images from the Mars Curiosity Rover, which is a Mars Science Laboratory that landed inside Gale Crater on August of 2012. The rover has outlived its life expectancy by over two years (currently on Sol 1512) and is still going strong towards its destination—the base of Mt. Sharp. The whole purpose of Curiosity’s mission is to investigate Martian climate and geology as well as analyze the soil for evidence of pre-existing life; seeing if Mars was once habitable.
During Spring 2017, more refined mathematical analysis was conducted which adjusted elevations based on the curvatire of Mars and perspective error. By incorporating this mathematical procedure, the average percent error between DEM (Digital Elevation Model) and panoramic calculations was approximately 1.4% as opposed to 8% when these corrections were not taken into account.
• The results of Spring 2017 are summarized in the Mars Curiosity Poster 2017.
Next we wanted to find the elevation of the features. As there is no sea level on Mars and the elevations are based off the planet's global datum, it was a bit tricker than finding the azimuth. Using MOLA DEM (Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter Digital Elevation Model) data, we found the lowest point in Gale Crater to be -4545 meters. Using orbital topographic maps and DEM data, we were able to find elevations of nearly all identified features. Using vertical spacing on the panorama with the baseline of feature H, and the lowest point in Gale crater, we found their actual elevation in meters.
This project resulted in identification of 54 features. These tables show the calculations for all the azimuths as well as elevations. Overall, there was hardly a margin of error when it comes to the azimuths, but there was with the elevations. We believe there are a few reasons for this error. First, the DEM data has a spatial resolution of approximately 24x24 meters per pixel, leaving room for quite a bit of variation in elevation, especially in mountain peaks. The vertical height accuracy is expected to be between 3-5 meters, with the elevations we used to be generally good for 10-12 meters, but it’s still hard to be certain with no ground truth. A second reason for this margin of error could possibly be due to the curvature of the planet because the identified features furthest away, have the largest error. This error was addressed in the Spring 2017 follow-up project.
But overall we believe the results of this initial project were successful, and that these methods could be used to help with future mission planning and operations.
Tianna Barber Tianna Barber and mentor Dr. Joseph Ciotti