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Published onFeb 17, 2021

Project Lead: Cody Paige ([email protected])

In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) near the sites of robotic and/or human missions may enable sustainable and affordable exploration of the SSERVI (Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute) Target Bodies. Key to using space resources is knowing their location, quantity, distribution, and extractability. In addition, operations and hardware associated with each ISRU prospecting, excavation, transportation, and processing step must be examined, tested, and integrated to enable effective ISRU. The RESOURCE (Resource Exploration and Science of OUR Cosmic Environment) project addresses these ISRU needs through a structured program directly linking science and exploration. The goal of RESOURCE is to characterize potential resources on SSERVI Target Bodies through scientific investigation. The MIT component of RESOURCE focuses on the optimization of the robotic and human interactions for missions to prospect for resources and conduct lunar ISRU as well as future manned missions to planetary surfaces. As mission complexity is set to increase exponentially with new space missions, the ability to manage live data feeds and make real-time decisions is vital to mission safety and security. Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented reality (AR), and telepresence systems can help reduce the strain on mission teams. To support these future operations, MIT has developed the virtual Mission Simulation System (vMSS), an immersive multi-user virtual environment to develop and test technologies to enable rapid decision making in a virtual environment, such as data analysis, telepresence, tele-collaboration, and so on. vMSS is currently being evaluated in collaboration with the NASA lunar rover missions, with specific attention being given to developing geoscience analysis tools.

The MIT component of RESOURCE is an Aero/Astro project led by Dr. Dava Newman. And details of the VIPER mission that we are working with can be found here —> for those interested (i.e. the instruments we are focusing on).

Opportunities for Engagement with the Project:

  1. Data Management: understand and coordinate data input types, bandwidth restrictions and VR data requirements for data visualization.

  2. Science team coordinator: to design a useful VR platform we need to work in close coordination with the science team’s goals to improve decision making – this job will assess and detail the requirements from the Lunar Rover science team.

  3. Mission Control coordinator: similar to Science Team coordinator, this person will coordinate with goals for mission operations and pre-mission decision making pathways

  4. VR Implementation: programming in Unity, working with the data management lead and science team coordinator to implement the decision making aids.

  5. Testing and assessment: create a test plan for the VR platform to assess the decision making capabilities and improvements on situational awareness from both a Scientist and Mission Operations perspective

  6. Creative design: creative designer of the VR space and determining naturalistic approaches to data visualization

  7. Test Rover Development: develop a simple rover to do preliminary tests of the VR capabilities.

Team Organization Chart:

Experimental Design:

We will be running a proof-of-concept experiment to assess the critical mission steps that will most benefit from the use of VR.

VR design requirements:

  1. Birds-eye-view mapping console (pre-built, low resolution map)

  2. Immersive rover view (depth-camera images)

  3. Rover traverse path (real-time progress of rover)

  4. Annotation capabilities (addition of waypoints, drill sites and geological sites of interest)


  1. Rover robotics mini rover

  2. Intel RealSense D435i camera x 3

  3. Simulated NSS data:

    Low neutron count (white) = 26

    Three levels of volatiles-indicating neutron counts (shades of blue) = 55, 70, 81.

    Grey indicates increasing slope (no-go zones for rover)

Experimental Tasks for Users:

Selecting drill site

Identifying obstacles

Selecting traverse path

Pre-mission: planning path (a-priori data), SA building

Post-mission: correlate geology to data

Post-mission: hazard analysis, next-day planning (updating a-priori data)

Identifying geologic areas of interest

The VR environment:

A 3D model of the rover with payloads was set up in a lunar environment in which the rover could be controlled manually or given waypoints and would automatically got to the set point. The waypoints and traverses are displayed in the non-lunar environment.

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