Time traveling ESA team explores virtual moon

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Time traveling ESA team explores virtual moon

The Apollo 15 of 1971 was among the most ambitious of the six lunar landings: the Falcon Lunar Module had to cross a mountain range that rises higher than the Himalayas before landing next to Hadley Rille, an elongated channel similar to a canyon. A team based at the ESAC astronomy center at ESA in Spain, in collaboration with the British company Timelab Technologies, recreated the landing using SPICE software, integrating a high resolution lunar model. Credit: ESA

If someone had watched the Apollo 15 lunar module Falcon head towards the Appenine Mountains of the Moon in 1971, then that would be what it would have seen. ESA researchers, in collaboration with the British company Timelab Technologies, recreate historic missions on the Moon in high definition 360 virtual reality, in order to gain new perspectives from vintage instrument data – and to help plan new missions for the end of the decade.

Apollo 15 was among the most ambitious of the six lunar landings, crossing a mountain range that rises higher than the Himalayas before landing next to Hadley Rille, an elongated canyon-like channel.

“We are revisiting these missions in order to recreate their detailed attitude history in order to re-analyze various scientific measures they have taken, such as optical imaging or X-ray spectroscopy,” explains the project’s scientist. ESA, Erik Kuulkers. “By combining the positioning data with a highly detailed digital elevation model of the lunar surface, we can know exactly where the instruments were pointing when they record their results.

“To begin with, we chose Apollo 15 as the first type J scientific crewed mission to the Moon, which carried additional scientific payloads, including remote sensing instruments to observe the lunar surface from the module in-orbit ordering service (CSM) – for longer stays. In addition, we simulated the 2003 ESA SMART-1 on the Moon, which tested solar electric propulsion while conducting scientific observations of the lunar surface. “

Time traveling ESA team explores virtual moon

A SPICE simulation of the Apollo 15 command and service module orbiting the moon in 1971. As the first of the Apollo J-type missions to the moon, the module carried additional remote sensing instruments. Simulating its journey using a high-resolution digital model of the moon makes it possible to extract new information from their data. Credit: ESA

The project, based at the ESAC astronomy center at ESA in Spain, uses specialized software called SPICE, which is used to plan and interpret planetary observations. The name is a summary of its functionality: “S” for the spacecraft, “P” for the planet (or more generally the target body), “I” for information on the instrument, “C” for information on the instrument. ‘orientation and “E” for events, signifying mission activities, planned or not.

While the software is developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, ESA manages its own SPICE service at ESAC and uses it to plan observations and analyze data for missions such as Mars Express, Venus Express, Rosetta, ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and ESA- JAXA BepiColombo at Mercury – including the simulation of its recent overflight of the Earth. This new project demonstrates that an equivalent analysis can still be carried out for older missions.

Alfredo Escalante López, engineer from the ESA SPICE service, explains: “For Apollo 15, its orbit around the moon was constructed by taking positions and speeds recorded in the auxiliary data of the gamma ray spectrometer, by studying the composition of the lunar surface. Next, instrument scoring was derived using additional attitude information from another instrument, the X-ray fluorescence spectrometer.

Time traveling ESA team explores virtual moon

SMART-1 in orbit. Credit: European Space Agency

“These two instruments have been mounted together in the CSM Scientific Instrument Module (SIM). To check the precision of our hobbies, we then compared the images collected by the visible light mapping camera, also in the SIM with our artificially generated views. .

“The same end-to-end process was applied to the SMART-1 orbiter, resulting in real-time rendering of the lunar surface that could be compared to images captured at the time by the advanced micro-imager experience Lunar, FRIEND, aboard the spaceship. “

The digital lunar elevation model used for this project is of the highest possible accuracy, up to a minimum resolution of only 5 m, combining terrain elevation measurements from laser altimeters on board the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter from NASA and Kaguya from the Japan Exploration Aerospace Agency with optical views of LRO. Wide angle and narrow cameras.













“Getting to know the Moon well is more than just historical interest,” adds Simone Migliari, operations specialist at ESA.

“ESA’s pilot navigation system will use functionality tracking techniques similar to facial recognition software to guide future missions to some of the moon’s most challenging terrain. It will start with the Russian Luna-27, headed for the southern polar region in 2025, where it will carry an ESA-made payload called Prospect, with a robotic drill to search for ice and lunar water resources. “

The team also visualized key aspects of the missions they study in high-precision 3D scenarios for public consumption, including the lunar orbit of Apollo 15, its LM landing and a tour of the landing site on the Lunar Rover.

ESA SPICE service coordinator Marc Costa Sitjà says: “We aim to provide new ways to display and validate scientific measurements, while offering a new, immersive way for the general public to relive the excitement of these legacy missions. . “


Comparison of the moon mountains with the Earth’s peaks


More information:
Download a collection of the team’s 360 VR hobbies here: https://bitbucket.org/alfredoe… ryimager / src / master /

Provided by
European Space Agency

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