Lunar instrument data integration into the Virtual Reality Mission Simulation System for Decision Communication and Situational Awareness

Paige, C., Haddad, D. D., Ward, F., Piercy, T., Heldmann, J., Lim, D., ... & Newman, D. (2021, July). Lunar instrument data integration into the Virtual Reality Mission Simulation System for Decision Communication and Situational Awareness. 50th International Conference on Environmental Systems.


In situ resource utilization (ISRU) technologies are a key advancement required to enable a sustained human presence on the Moon and Mars. NASA’s upcoming Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) mission to the Moon will provide crucial correlations between volatiles and the lunar geology and environment to characterize these resources as potential reserves for future ISRU on the Moon. VIPER, slated to launch in 2023, will require the coordination of multi-disciplinary teams across the country making real time operational decisions based on rover instrument data. The virtual reality Mission Simulation System (vMSS) is a virtual reality platform designed at MIT by the Resource Exploration and Science of our Cosmic Environment (RESOURCE) team to provide teams with a collaboration interface for similar future planetary missions which will increasingly rely on real-time tactical operations. Herein we determine the integration pathway for analog based datasets that are case studies of VIPER’s two main instruments, the near-infrared volatile spectrometer subsystem (NIRVSS) and the neutron spectrometer subsystem (NSS), into vMSS to provide the most valuable visualization tools. Focusing on improving situational awareness, decision making and reducing task load as well as incorporating comments from scientists and engineers working previous analogs and on the current VIPER mission, we recommend the most critical elements to implement into vMSS and the best approaches for data visualization. We present a review of relevant analogs and state of the art mission software. We have developed a design concept and path to flight of analysed instrument data integrated with data maps that allow for virtual manipulation and annotation between non-co-located team members which can be applicable to multiple future planetary missions. We focus on premission mapping of a priori data for improved situational awareness, layering of analysed instrument data, correlative mapping and interactive capabilities for in-mission decision making, as well as archiving and annotation tools for post-mission analysis. Finally, we lay out the roadmap for the future development of immersive sample site visualization capabilities and the use of integrated instrument data in vMSS with automated temporal and geospatial planning.

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