2011

Software Manages Mission Data from Saturn and Mars Exploration

ERDAS APOLLO Essentials - Image Web Server
ERDAS
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The Italian Space Agency (ASI) is using ERDAS APOLLO to manage data collected from different space missions and deliver it for public consumption via a Web portal. ASI is collaborating with the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA on the Cassini-Huygens, Mars Express, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) missions.

altThe Planetary Radar Operation Center (PROC) is an ASI program designed to unify the operative centers of these missions, providing a single access point for the massive amount of collected data. The enterprise solution was selected for the PROC program because it can efficiently and quickly publish radargrams and interplanetary maps. After mission data is processed in the individual operating centers, the software will be used to catalog it and publish it to the Web portal. Then, the scientific community and the public at large will be able to access the data via GeoRSS and OGC Web services such as WMS, WFS, WCS, and WMC.

The Cassini-Huygens mission primarily focuses on two of Saturn’s moons, Titan and Enceladus, as well as Saturn itself. So far, the mission has found evidence of heat and organic chemicals, and the possibility of liquid water on the surface of Enceladus, indicating the potential for the formation of primitive life forms. Cassini, the orbiter component of Cassini- Huygens, carries 12 instruments that have returned a daily stream of data since arriving at Saturn in 2004. Huygens, the smaller probe portion of Cassini-Huygens, landed on Titan in 2005, and returns data about Titan’s vast methane lakes and hydrocarbon sand dunes.

The primary objective of the Mars Express mission is to investigate the basic characteristics of Mars. The Mars Express orbiter will create high-resolution imagery (10 meters/pixel) of the entire Martian surface and super-resolution imagery (2 meters/pixel) of selected areas. It will also produce a map of the mineral composition of the surface at 100-meter resolution, map the composition of the atmosphere and determine its global circulation, determine the structure of the sub-surface to a depth of a few kilometers, determine the effect of the atmosphere on the planetary surface, and determine how the atmosphere interacts with the solar wind. Mars Express spends a portion of its orbit facing Mars to collect data, and the other part facing the Earth to transmit data back to ground stations. Every day, the ground stations receive between 0.5 and 5 Gbits of scientific data from Mars Express.

The main objective of the MRO mission is to investigate the presence of water on Mars. MRO is taking close-up photographs of the Martian surface, analyzing minerals, searching for subsurface water, measuring the dust and water content of the atmosphere, and monitoring daily weather conditions.

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