Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
  Moon News  




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



MOON DAILY
How Light Looks Different on the Moon and What NASA Is Doing About It
by Kimberly Minafra Ames News
Moffett Field CA (SPX) Jul 27, 2017


Above is a set from over 2,500 pairs of stereo camera images taken from at least 12 scenarios of recreated craters and rock formations that Wong and his team collected to accurately simulate the lighting conditions at the Moon's poles. The goal is to improve the stereo viewing capabilities of robotic systems to effectively navigate unknown terrain and avoid hazards at the Moon poles. Credits: NASA/Uland Wong

Things look different on the Moon. Literally. Because the Moon isn't big enough to hold a significant atmosphere, there is no air and there are no particles in the air to reflect and scatter sunlight.

On Earth, shadows in otherwise bright environments are dimly lit with indirect light from these tiny reflections. That lighting provides enough detail that we get an idea of shapes, holes and other features that could be obstacles to someone - or some robot - trying to maneuver in shadow.

"What you get on the Moon are dark shadows and very bright regions that are directly illuminated by the Sun - the Italian painters in the Baroque period called it chiaroscuro - alternating light and dark," said Uland Wong, a computer scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley.

"It's very difficult to be able to perceive anything for a robot or even a human that needs to analyze these visuals, because cameras don't have the sensitivity to be able to see the details that you need to detect a rock or a crater."

In addition, the dust itself covering the Moon is otherworldly. The way light reflects on the jagged shape of individual grains, along with the uniformity of color, means it looks different if it's lit from different directions. It loses texture at different lighting angles.

Some of these visual challenges are evident in Apollo mission surface images, but the early lunar missions mostly waited until lunar "afternoon" so astronauts could safely explore the surface in well-lit conditions.

Future lunar rovers may target unexplored polar regions of the Moon to drill for water ice and other volatiles that are essential, but heavy, to take on human exploration missions. At the Moon's poles, the Sun is always near the horizon and long shadows hide many potential dangers in terrain like rocks and craters. Pure darkness is a challenge for robots that need to use visual sensors to safely explore the surface.

Wong and his team in Ames' Intelligent Robotics Group are tackling this by gathering real data from simulated lunar soil and lighting.

"We're building these analog environments here and lighting them like they would look on the Moon with solar simulators, in order to create these sorts of appearance conditions," said Wong.

"We use a lot of 3-dimensional imaging techniques, and use sensors to create algorithms, which will both help the robot safeguard itself in these environments, and let us train people to interpret it correctly and command a robot where to go."

The team uses a 'Lunar Lab' testbed at Ames - a 12-foot-square sandbox containing eight tons of JSC-1A, a human-made lunar soil simulant. Craters, surface ripples and obstacles are shaped with hand tools, and rocks are added to the terrain in order to simulate boulder fields or specific obstacles.

Then they dust the terrain and rocks with an added layer of simulant to produce the "fluffy" top layer of lunar soil, erasing shovel and brush marks, and spreading a thin layer on the faces of rocks. Each terrain design in the testbed is generated by statistics based on common features observed from spacecraft around the Moon.

Solar simulator lights are set up around the terrain to create Moon-accurate low-angle, high-contrast illumination. Two cameras, called a stereo imaging pair, mimic how human eyes are set apart to help us perceive depth. The team captured photographs of multiple testbed setups and lighting angles to create a dataset to inform future rover navigation.

"But you can only shovel so much dirt; we are also using physics-based rendering, and are trying to photo-realistically recreate the illumination in these environments," said Wong. "This allows us to use a supercomputer to render a bunch of images using models that we have decent confidence in, and this gets us a lot more information than we would taking pictures in a lab with three people, for example."

The result, a Polar Optical Lunar Analog Reconstruction or POLAR dataset, provides standard information for rover designers and programmers to develop algorithms and set up sensors to safely navigate. The POLAR dataset is applicable not only to our Moon, but to many types of planetary surfaces on airless bodies, including Mercury, asteroids, and regolith-covered moons like Mars' Phobos.

So far, early results show that stereo imaging is promising for use on rovers that will explore the lunar poles.

"One of the mission concepts that's in development right now, Resource Prospector, that I have the privilege of working on, might be the first mission to land a robot and navigate in the polar regions of the Moon," said Wong. "And in order to do that, we have to figure out how to navigate where nobody's ever been."

This research is funded by the agency's Advanced Exploration Systems and Game Changing Development programs. NASA's Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute provides the laboratory facilities and operational support.

MOON DAILY
Neil Armstrong moon bag sells for $1.8mn in New York
New York (AFP) July 20, 2017
A bag Neil Armstrong used to collect the first ever samples of the moon - which was once nearly thrown out with the trash - sold at auction Thursday for $1.8 million, Sotheby's said. The outer decontamination bag, which was flown to the moon on Apollo 11 and still carries traces of moon dust and small rock, was sold on the 48th anniversary of the first moon landing in 1969. Auctioneer ... read more

Related Links
Resource Prospector,
Mars News and Information at MarsDaily.com
Lunar Dreams and more


Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

MOON DAILY
Portals to new worlds: Martian exploration near the North Pole

For Moratorium on Sending Commands to Mars, Blame the Sun

Tributes to wetter times on Mars

Opportunity will spend three weeks at current location due to Solar Conjunction

MOON DAILY
Saturn surprises as Cassini continues its Grand Finale

Titan's calm lakes offer space probes a smooth landing

Methanol Points to Evolving Story of Enceladus's Plumes

In a Cosmic Hit-and-Run, Icy Saturn Moon May Have Flipped

MOON DAILY
New Horizons Video Soars over Pluto's Majestic Mountains and Icy Plains

Juno spots Jupiter's Great Red Spot

New evidence in support of the Planet Nine hypothesis

NASA's New Horizons Team Strikes Gold in Argentina

MOON DAILY
Soyuz rocket rolled out, ready to launch

Astronauts gear up for space with tough Russian training

Russian sanctions won't affect cooperation in space

NASA Offers Space Station as Catalyst for Discovery in Washington

MOON DAILY
Nanoparticles could spur better LEDs, invisibility cloaks

New material resembling a metal nanosponge could reduce computer energy consumption

How do you build a metal nanoparticle?

Nanostructures taste the rainbow

MOON DAILY
Vega to launch two Earth Observation Satellites for Italy, Israel and France

Three Up, Three Down as NASA Tests RS-25 Flight Controller

Iran in 'successful' test of satellite-launch rocket

Aerojet Rocketdyne's RS-25 Flight Controller Goes Three for Three in SLS Test

MOON DAILY
China develops sea launches to boost space commerce

Chinese satellite Zhongxing-9A enters preset orbit

Chinese Space Program: From Setback, to Manned Flights, to the Moon

Chinese Rocket Fizzles Out, Puts Other Launches on Hold

MOON DAILY
Multitasking monolayers

Writing with the electron beam: Now in silver

Scientists announce the quest for high-index materials

A new synthesis route for alternative catalysts of noble metals




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News






The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement