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CROSS DRIVE targets on creating the foundations for collaborative distributed virtual workspaces for European space science. Space exploration missions have produced huge data sets of potentially immense value for research as well as planning and operating future missions. However, currently expert teams, data and tools are fragmented, leaving little scope for unlocking this value through collaborative activities. The question of how to improve data analysis and exploitation of space-based observations can be answered by providing and standardizing new methods and systems for collaborative scientific visualisation and data analysis, and space mission planning and operation. This will not only allow scientist to work together, with each other's data and tools, but importantly to do so between missions. The consortium brings together unprecedented expertise from space science, visualisation of space science and collaborative visualisation. The proposed collaborative workspace encompasses various advanced technological solutions to coordinate central storage, processing and 3D visualization strategies in collaborative immersive virtual environments for the data. A specific focus is given to the preparation of the ExoMars 2016 and 2018 missions. Three case studies will demonstrate the utility of the workspaces for European space science: Mars atmospheric data analysis, rovers landing site characterization and rover target selection during its real-time operations. The use cases will exploit state-of-the-art science data sets and they will be constructed in view of the ESA ExoMars missions’ scenarios. Impact on beneficiaries will be maximised both through providing an expandable backbone and reusable standardisation and tools, and three levels of workspace for: scientists directly engaged; other external scientists; and the public.


The CROSS DRIVE project aims to develop an innovative collaborative workspace infrastructure for space missions that will allow distributed scientific and engineering teams to collectively analyze and interpret scientific data as well as execute operations of planetary spacecraft. It aims to brings together and mobilize a core team of leading experts in Mars science, 3D visualization, distributed computing and virtual reality collaborative systems to prepare an innovative framework for building a collaborative workspace platform for data sharing, analysis and exploration. The system is based on technologies and techniques already studied in other industry fields but never applied to the space science domain with such strength. The development of this collaborative workspace infrastructure will be focused through preparation of the ExoMars 2016 TGO and 2018 rover missions. CROSS DRIVE aims to mobilize a team of best European expertise in the field of Mars science data collection and analysis to propose and study synergic combinations of data sets and their benchmarking. This also allows testing and exercising the proposed systems in view of the ExoMars rover and orbiter missions by using actual and state-of-the-art Mars science data (MEX and MRO primarily, other missions like Phoenix and MSL will be also considered). The concept to reach targets of CROSS DRIVE is therefore to join research on space engineering and science analysis. The development of the collaborative workspace will be implemented to support the following scientific data analysis:

  • Share and correlate atmospheric data sets, analysis, models and simulations based on payloads of the two main Mars’ satellites MEX and MRO;
  • Compare and correlate satellites data for geology and geodesy;
  • Benchmark satellite and ground based Mars atmospheric measurements.

The above scientific objectives will help the team to understand and develop necessary scientific algorithms and data management strategy necessary for exploiting Mars satellite and ground based data, Mars science analysis, execute Mars global circulation studies and benchmarking Mars data. The technical objectives include:

  • Gather requirements for creating a comprehensive Collaborative Workspace Infrastructure for space missions by analysing the ExoMars 2016 TGO and 2018 rover missions.
  • Design and implement comprehensive 3D visualization techniques that will allow real-time interaction and visual exploration of complex datasets using Virtual Reality environments for: cartography of Mars via visualization/analysis of DTMs and interactive visualization and simulation of Mars spacecraft and rovers and their payloads.
  • Design and implement a collaborative computing infrastructure that can connect distributed scientific and engineering teams with various data sources, computing resources and simulators through a range of interfaces (laptops, workstations, Powerwall and CAVEs) to facilitate collective data interpretation and exploration.
  • Design and implement a range of collaborative virtual workspaces that will allow distributed scientists to work together to engage in space missions, in both synchronous and asynchronous modes. These workspaces will cater for (a) core mission engineers and scientists (b) institutional reviewers/supervisors and scientists partially or temporarily involved in supporting the spaces mission (c) scientists worldwide who are not directly involved but interested in contributing to ongoing data analysis, or who could address earth science issues for which the analysis of space collected data could provide breakthroughs.

Finally the validation of the above Collaborative Workspace Infrastructure will be executed through a set of use cases relevant to the ExoMars 2016 TGO and 2018 rover missions. The final goal is in fact to ready the system to be prepared for the data processing of the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) in 2016 and the ExoMars 2018 Rover missions. Two payloads in particular will be considered: the NOMAD and the PanCam/HRC experiments, respectively providing information on the state of the atmosphere (mapping and vertical information) and the surface and geology of the planet. Even if the collaborative VR framework we are proposing can be applied to many kinds of space missions’ operations, the main objective of this project is the implementation and testing of different integrated systems designed for specific use cases which will be representative of the ExoMars missions’ scenarios. Three use case sections with increasing levels of complexities will be considered to exercise the remote and Collaborative Workspace as it would happen during science mission design or real-time operations:

  • Rover landing site characterization exploiting satellite images and digital elevation models;
  • Mars atmospheric data analysis and comparison among datasets;
  • Rover target selection during real-time operations comparing rover images with satellite data.

For the last scenario the rover’s camera, which is its main payload, will be emulated in the ALTEC Mars and Moon Terrain Demonstrator (20x20m facility) to reproduce the image acquisition and science data analysis at a Rover Control Centre. Moreover, the Collaborative Workspace will provide an Internet portal in order to:

  • Allow, during the data analysis and visualization sections, interactions with remote off-line users;
  • Support scientists in finding and establishing partnerships with external users having specific expertise who could benefit from on-going data analysis (i.e. the intention is to use the web portal to provide PIs with a pool of external institutes interested in being contacted to give specific contributions);
  • Provide innovative ways to execute a proper dissemination of the project’s results.