An onboard data analysis method to track the seasonal polar caps on Mars

Kiri L. Wagstaff, Rebecca Castano, Steve Chien, Anton B. Ivanov, Erik Pounders, Timothy N. Titus

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The Martian seasonal CO2 ice caps advance and retreat each year. They are currently studied using instruments such as the THermal EMission Imaging System (THEMIS), a visible and infra-red camera on the Mars Odyssey spacecraft [1]. However, each image must be downlinked to Earth prior to analysis. In contrast, we have developed the Bimodal Image Temperature (BIT) histogram analysis method for onboard detection of the cap edge, before transmission. In downlink-limited scenarios when the entire image cannot be transmitted, the location of the cap edge can still be identified and sent to Earth. In this paper, we evaluate our method on uncalibrated THEMIS data and find 1) agreement with manual cap edge identifications to within 28.2 km, and 2) high accuracy even with a smaller analysis window, yielding large reductions in memory requirements. This algorithm is currently being considered as a capability enhancement for the Odyssey second extended mission, beginning in fall 2006.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-272
Number of pages8
JournalEuropean Space Agency, (Special Publication) ESA SP
Issue number603
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes
Eventi- SAIRAS 2005 - The 8th International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation in Space - Munich, Germany
Duration: 5 Sep 20058 Sep 2005


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