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SETI: Searching for life on Mars using 3D hyperspectral and fluorescent data

Water ice in a North Pole crater. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU.


The Imaging group at MSSL, UK’s largest university-based space research group, has been developing life detection systems for application to Mars as part of the European Aurora programme. The starting point is the PanCam for ExoMars 2018 rover, and possible follow-on missions for sample-return with our new partners in Russia. A data fusion approach has been developed to combine orbital and ground-level panchromatic and hyperspectral imagery with targeted observations of potential life habitats such as subsurface samples, cliff overhangs and cave entrances using UV-stimulated imaging.

Examples will be shown of the automated extraction of 3D terrain and associated terrain-corrected 3D information from spaceborne as well as rover camera data to produce a multi-resolution 3D environment to show “a posteriori” what areas have been imaged at different resolutions from MER and in future MSL Curiosity within the PRoGIS system.

To plan for future ESA exploration missions, hyperspectral imaging systems using Tunable Filters have been designed and built and tested in field conditions in Wales as well as in the volcanic caldera on Tenerife, Gran Canaria. In parallel a handheld UV-stimulated fluorescence system, WALI (Wide Angle Light Imager) has been designed, built and tested in a number of field conditions, including HMP which will be demonstrated.

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