The Eyes of the Rover

Although there’s a whole team of us out here in the Utah desert, as far as the MOC is concerned, there’s just one lonely rover. The rover acts like an avatar for the science team – it is the body to their brains. Instead of feet, there are wheels, instead of muscle and flesh, motors and metal. And instead of eyes, there is AUPE.

AUPE is the Aberystwyth University PanCam Emulator, a rugged and robust field deployable emulation of the UK led PanCam instrument, that will fly on the ExoMars rover. Although it looks a little different, the specifications are almost identical.

Exomars PHASE B1 8.05.2008

Artist impression of the PanCam instrument for ExoMars 2020 [Image Credit: ESA]

In many ways, AUPE works just like human eyes. There are two Wide Angle Camera’s (WAC’s) that work together as a stereo pair, so just like humans, AUPE sees the world in 3D. By cycling between Red, Green, and Blue filters, full colour images are captured, and the whole of AUPE can turn from side to side and up and down, just as a person would turn and tilt their head to explore their environment.

In fact, AUPE goes quite a bit beyond the capabilities of human vision. Those stereo WAC’s are further apart than human eyes, giving greater depth resolution. In addition to RGB, AUPE can see through 12 narrowband filters, to look at the finer details of the colourations of rocks. Between the WAC’s sits a High Resolution Camera (HRC) that acts like a telescope, zooming in on far off features, or looking at smaller details of things close by, such as grains in sedimentary rocks.


AUPE on the rover in Utah [Image Credit: @westernuCPSX]

The data from AUPE fuels the Pro3D software, introduced yesterday by Laura back in Harwell (INSERT HYPERLINK TO THAT BLOGPOST IF POSSIBLE). By turning through 360º, and looking up and down, AUPE can make a perfect photosphere of the rover landing site, and thanks to that stereo vision, these images can be used to reconstruct an accurate 3D digital model of the rover’s surroundings, for the MOC scientists to explore virtually.

Once the rover lands, AUPE will be the eyes of Harwell.

Roger Stabbins – PanCam Instrument Scientist


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