The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Arizona State University (ASU), and Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems (SAS) Santa Barbara Remote Sensing (SBRS) have executed a series of successful Mars exploration missions. These have recently been publicized on television and the internet with the early 2004 Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission geological robots that have revolutionized our detailed knowledge of the planet's geology and atmosphere. This latest mission success has its foundation in missions dating back to 1969. Over the past thirty-five years NASA has demonstrated a long-term commitment to planetary science and solar system exploration that continues with a commitment recently expressed by President Bush and codified in a reorganization of the NASA space sciences mission directorate. This paper reports on a small but exciting aspect of this sweeping NASA program, and illustrates the benefits and efficiency with which planetary and solar system exploration can be accomplished. Key in the success is the vision not only of NASA in general, but of the mission Principal Investigator, in particular. The specific series of missions leading to MER contains an underlying vision of carefully planned geological investigations using remote sensing instrumentation, starting with broad survey, leading to more finely resolved global imaging, and finally to landing instrumentation capable of detailed rock and soil analyses. The mission started with broad and relatively coarse spatial resolution orbital surveys with fine spectral capability focused on identifying the overall geological and atmospheric character of the planet accomplished from 1996 to the present conducted by the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES). This led to the more detailed global imaging at finer spatial resolution offered by the Mars 2001 Odyssey Mission Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) which identified specific landing sites of interest for detailed exploration. The mission culminated in the recent MER lander geological analyses conducted by the mini-TES instruments carried by the rovers. This series of remote sensing investigations has set the stage for a new era in solar system exploration.
The LRO Radiometer Investigation is an experiment proposed for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter mission that will use a simple but extremely sensitive radiometer to measure the temperatures of the region of permanent shade at the lunar poles. Temperature governs the ability of these surfaces to act as cold traps, and tightly constrains the identity and lifetimes of potential volatile resources. The LRO Radiometer will also measure the night time temperature of the Moon, and use the extensive modeling experience of the team to use these data to produce maps of meter-scale rocks that constitute a significant hazard to landing and operations. The LRO Radiometer also supports LRO objectives by measuring the global abundance of meter scale rocks at 1 km resolution. This measurement is accomplished in four (4) months of observations.
Wedge Imaging Spectrometer (WIS) technology promises advantages in lower size, cost, and sensor complexity but requires consideration of the effects of non-simultaneous collection of spectral information. Space applications appear particularly matched to the characteristics of this technology. Examples of WIS imagery collected by airborne acquisition systems have been used to assess the utility of WIS space imagery. Recent hardware development efforts have produced sensor components amenable to hyperspectral space applications in the Visible-Near-Infrared, Short Wavelength Infrared, Short-Mid Wavelength Infrared, and Long Wavelength Infrared bands. These components demonstrate excellent performance and provide the basis for space instrument concepts that utilize the inherent simplicity, compactness, and economy of the wedge spectrometer technology.