American Society of Civil Engineers

Traverse Planning Experiments for Future Planetary Surface Exploration

by S. J. Hoffman, Ph.D., (Science Applications International Corporation, 2450 NASA Parkway, Houston, Texas 77058 E-mail:, S. A. Voels, Ph.D., (Science Applications International Corporation, 2450 NASA Parkway, Houston, Texas 77058 E-mail:, R. P. Mueller, (NASA Kennedy Space Center, M6-0399:3415, Kennedy Space Center, Florida 32899 E-mail:, and P. C. Lee, Ph.D., (Mars Institute., NASA Ames Research Center, MS 245-3, Moffett Field, CA 94035 E-mail:
Section: Symposium 2: Exploration and Utilization of Extraterrestrial Bodies, pp. 600-609, (doi:

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Document type: Conference Proceeding Paper
Part of: Earth and Space 2012: Engineering, Science, Construction, and Operations in Challenging Environments
Abstract: This paper describes the results of a recent (July-August 2010 and July 2011) planetary surface traverse planning experiment. The purpose of this experiment was to gather data relevant to robotically repositioning surface assets used for planetary surface exploration. This is a scenario currently being considered for future human exploration missions to the Moon and Mars. The specific scenario selected was a robotic traverse on the lunar surface from an outpost at Shackleton Crater to the Malapert Massif. As these are exploration scenarios, the route will not have been previously traversed and the only pre-traverse data sets available will be remote (orbital) observations. Devon Island was selected as an analog location where a traverse route of significant length could be planned and then traveled. During the first half of 2010, a team of engineers and scientists who had never been to Devon Island used remote sensing data comparable to that which is likely to be available for the Malapert region (eg., 2-meter/pixel imagery, 10-meter interval topographic maps and associated digital elevation models, etc.) to plan a 17-kilometer (km) traverse. Surface-level imagery data was then gathered on-site that was provided to the planning team. This team then assessed whether the route was actually traversable or not. Lessons learned during the 2010 experiment were then used in a second experiment in 2011 for which a much longer traverse (85 km) was planned and additional surface-level imagery different from that gathered in 2010 was obtained for a comparative analysis. This paper will describe the route planning techniques used, the data sets available to the route planners and the lessons learned from the two traverses planned and carried out on Devon Island.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Space exploration