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RSE Researchers and Colleagues Present Work to Help Study the Moon's Permanently Shadowed Regions
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RSE Researchers and Colleagues Present Work to Help Study the Moon's Permanently Shadowed Regions

Robust Software Engineering (RSE) researchers Ignacio López-Francos and Mark Shirley, along with academia colleagues Valentin Bickel (ETH Zürich) and Ben Moseley (University of Oxford), presented their work on Hyper-effective nOise Removal Unet Software (HORUS, poster) at the 53rd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC). HORUS enhances the Signal-to-Noise-Ratio (SNR) of the Moon’s Permanently Shadowed Regions (PSRs) and Transiently Shadowed Regions (TSRs) in existing Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) Narrow Angle Camera (NAC) images. This enables the study of small features in PSRs for the first time, which will also aid future exploration missions.

BACKGROUND: PSRs are believed to host large quantities of (sub)surface water-ice and other volatiles, making them prime targets for future exploration missions, including orbital (e.g., Lunar Trailblazer) and surface missions (e.g., Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover - VIPER). In addition, astronauts may visit PSRs in the frame of the Artemis program. Despite their importance, the rover/astronaut-scale (<~5m) surface characteristics and trafficability of PSRs remains largely unknown; mainly because the available data lacks sufficient signal and/or resolution. For example, short-exposure (and thus high-resolution) images of PSRs taken by the LRO NAC suffer from a substantial amount of noise, including dark noise, read-out noise, and shot (photon) noise, making them largely unusable for science- and/or exploration-related applications.

HORUS demonstrates the capabilities of a machine learning-driven post-processing tool that is able to significantly enhance the SNR of existing LRO NAC images of PSRs. This enables a variety of PSR-related science studies while also helping maximize the safety and efficacy of future exploration missions (via rover traverse planning and rover and lander localization in shadowed regions, and by helping to provide high-resolution maps that contextualize in-situ and orbital observations).

LPSC is recognized as the world’s premier planetary science conference. Since its beginning in 1970, when it was called the Apollo 11 Lunar Science Conference, the conference has been a significant focal point for lunar and planetary science research. Over the years, it has grown tremendously, with over 2,000 planetary scientists and students who present their findings that provide new insights and a better understanding of the solar system.

NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: NASA HQ, NASA ARC, Frontier Development Lab, Google Cloud, Luxembourg Space Agency, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute

TEAM: Ignacio López-Francos, Mark Shirley, Valentin Bickel (ETH Zürich), and Ben Moseley (University of Oxford)

POINT OF CONTACT: Ignacio López-Francos, ignacio.lopez-francos@nasa.gov

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