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A prototype system for autonomous rover-based planetary geology
2009 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Unmanned and autonomous exploration has acquired high importance over the last decade as a tractable and cost-effective method for in situ study of planets and planetary bodies. Since spacecraft land at a single location on such bodies, exploration of a certain area around the landing point requires the use of an automated roving vehicle. Rover missions even for a neighbouring planet such as Mars are very complex. Hence there is need for a versatile testbed to realistically simulate, validate and compare various options for vehicle configuration, payload, communication, navigation, sample manipulation and science experiments. A proof-of-principle prototype testbed for in situ geological and mineralogical studies of a planet like Mars is proposed. The study comprises determination of surface rock composition and mineralogy using visual imagery and Raman spectroscopy. The testbed consists of a rover system equipped with cameras and a robotic arm, a Raman spectrometer, and an onboard computer with software for autonomous rock detection. The cameras capture mono images of terrain during rover traverse. The rock detection software is implemented using a novel combination of image processing techniques to demarcate small-scale surface features and rocks in these images, and generate the parameters for selection of geologically relevant sample rocks. The rover is then directed to pick up target rock samples with its robotic arm for in situ compositional analysis using the Raman spectrometer. Close-up Raman spectroscopy yields sharp and non-overlapping spectral features, which make it an effective standalone method to characterise rocks. The use of ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to study planetary subsurface structures is a future possibility. Its effectiveness has been investigated and validated under simulated conditions. On a sample- return mission, further methods to determine rock composition, such as X-ray diffraction and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, may be used on Earth by geologists for verification. Development of this prototype was supported by the European Space Agency (ESA) and the International Lunar Exploration Working Group (ILEWG). System tests have been performed at the planetary robotics test facility at ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, The Netherlands. The prototype has also been tested in part at a Mars analogue site, the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah, USA.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Technology, Mars rover, Martian geology, Raman spectroscopy, robotic arm, rock detection
Keyword [sv]
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-42206ISRN: LTU-PB-EX--09/082--SELocal ID: 041a9d19-547d-4ebe-95cc-bf15eae3c696OAI: diva2:1015423
Subject / course
Student thesis, at least 30 credits
Educational program
Space Engineering, master's level
Validerat; 20101217 (root)Available from: 2016-10-04 Created: 2016-10-04Bibliographically approved

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