Lidar and the mobile Scene Modeler (mSM) as scientific tools for planetary exploration

Gordon R. Osinski, Timothy D. Barfoot, Nadeem Ghafoor, Matt Izawa, Neil Banerjee, Piotr Jasiobedzki, Jeff Tripp, Robert Richards, Simon Auclair, Haley Sapers, Laura Thomson, Roberta Flemming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


With the continued success of the Mars Exploration Rovers and the return of humans to the Moon within the next decade, a considerable amount of research is being done on the technologies required to provide surface mobility and the tools required to provide scientific capability. Here, we explore the utility of lidar and the mobile Scene Modeler (mSM) - which is based on a stereo camera system - as scientific tools. Both of these technologies have been, or are being considered for, technological applications such as autonomous satellite rendezvous and rover navigation. We carried out a series of field tests at the 23 km diameter, 39 Ma, Haughton impact structure located on Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic. Several sites of geological interest were investigated, including polygonal terrain, gullies and channels, slump/collapse features, impact melt breccia hills, and a site of impact-associated hydrothermal mineralization. These field tests show that lidar and mSM provide a superior visual record of the terrain, from the regional (km) to outcrop (m to cm) scale and in 3-D, as compared to standard digital photography. Thus, a key strength of these technologies is in situ reconnaissance and documentation. Lidar scans also provide a wealth of geometric and structural information about a site, accomplishing the equivalent of weeks to months of manual surveying and with much greater accuracy than traditional tools, making this extremely useful for planetary exploration missions. An unexpected result of these field tests is the potential for lidar and mSM to provide qualitative, and potentially quantitative, composition information about a site. Given the high probability of lidar and mSM being used on future lunar missions, we suggest that it would be beneficial to further investigate the potential for these technologies to be used as science tools.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)691-700
Number of pages10
JournalPlanetary and Space Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Impact cratering
  • Lidar
  • Mars
  • Moon
  • Periglacial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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