A computer program designed for execution aboard an exploratory spacecraft analyzes scientific data (especially image data) in order to (1) enable the reservation of limited communication resources for transmission of data likely to be of significant scientific value and (2) enable automated, rapid response to take advantage of fleeting, unanticipated opportunities for important scientific observations. The program can also be executed on Earth to analyze data acquired in prior spacecraft missions. At its present state of development, the program implements change detection and discovery algorithms that recognize scientifically interesting features in images of terrain of remote planets, moons, asteroids, and the like. These algorithms utilize examples of previously identified targets to generate efficient mathematical models for identifying new targets of the same type across a continuous range of scales. In tests thus far, the program recognized 80 percent of craters, with a false-alarm rate of 12 percent, in Lunar images larger than four pixels acquired by the Clementine spacecraft. The program has also been shown to be capable of discovering volcanoes on Venus, sand dunes on Mars, and ice geysers (cryovolcanoes) on Neptune’s moon Triton.

This program was written by Ashley Davies, Eric Mjolsness, Joseph Roden, Michael Burl, Rebecca Castano, Robert Sherwood, Steve Chien, and Timothy Stough of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

This software is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Don Hart of the California Institute of Technology at (818) 393- 3425. Refer to NPO-30442.

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Software for Ananlyzing Scientific Data Abroad a Spacecraft

(reference NPO-30442) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

Don't have an account? Sign up here.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2002 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

Read more articles from the archives here.