You recently went on a trip to NASA as part of your research. That must have been really exciting! What did you get up to?
I’m writing my PhD on immersive image forms used in Mars exploration. The writing is broken up into chapters that look at panoramas, 3D imaging, false colour imaging, and ‘Mars Yards’.
I am now in the third year of my PhD and for the first couple of years I had spent time researching at the Regional Planetary Imaging Facility at University College London, visited the Mars Yard being used to test ESA’s (European Space Agency) ExoMars rover, and interviewed various scientists and engineers at both ESA and NASA.
As my ideas gained clarity, it became clear that a visit to where all this went on would be fruitful for the progression of my research. As it was out of the question to go to Mars, I headed for the next best thing, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.
‘Mars rover driver’ John Wright began my visit with a general tour of JPL; I was shown the developmental stages for the Mars rovers and where they were built, the control room, Curiosity’s Earth-bound twin, and the Mars Yard used to test it in. After the tour I sat with John and he showed me exactly how rovers are driven across the surface of Mars; using stereoscopic data from a pair of cameras, three-dimensional maps are constructed, enabling both scientific and driving planning.
Whilst at JPL I also spoke to visual imagers, and those developing the software used to process the images. This was a truly exciting experience; a real behind-the-scenes glance into the workings of JPL.