Scientists can see Mars in 3-D from lander photos

New computer system generates 3-D views of Mars from photos, enabling virtual tours for scientists.

The feeling of “being right there” will give scientists a much better understanding of Mars surface images.

“The only input we need are the captured raw images and the internal camera calibration,” said Dr. Michal Havlena of a new computer system which can create 3-D images of the Martian surface from photographs taken by robot explorers and landers.

Scientists at the Center for Machine Perception of the Technical University of Prague, under the supervision of Tomas Pajdla, are developing a computer system that can automatically combine images of the Martian surface in order to produce a three-dimensional view.

Scientists can look at the resulting computer model from any angle, giving them a realistic impression of the landscape.

There are so very many photographs of the surface of Mars that manually processing them is nearly impossible. The new automated method allows fast high-quality image processing.

The pictures are analyzed for their content and their point of view, (direction, height, and so on) then the data from the pictures is used by the computer program to ‘paint’ a 3-D image.

Dr. Havlena said that the program has already created a three-dimensional model from nine images captured by the Phoenix Mars Lander just after it dug some trenches in the soil.

“The challenge is now to reconstruct larger parts of the surface of the red planet, captured by the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity,” concluded Dr. Havlena.

Deborah Byrd