Space exploration missions have produced huge data sets that are potentially of great value to research, and for planning and operating future missions. However, current expert teams, data and tools are fragmented. This prevents such valuable data from being of great use through collaborative activities. The EU-funded CROSS DRIVE (Collaborative rover operations and planetary science analysis system based on distributed remote and interactive virtual environments) project created the foundations for collaborative, distributed virtual workspaces for European space science. Overall, the aim was to allow remote scientific and engineering experts to collectively analyse and interpret combined data sets using shared simulation tools. CROSS DRIVE partners developed distributed and collaborative infrastructure based on advanced immersive virtual reality tools. This was done to better analyse and manage planetary spacecrafts’ scientific data and operational activities. To support space data analysis and space operations, the workspace incorporates advanced technological solutions for central storage processing, 3D visualisation and virtual presence in immersive virtual reality environments. In order to demonstrate the usefulness of the workspaces for European space science, project partners carried out three case studies by exploiting state-of-the-art science data sets. The cases involved mars atmospheric data analysis, rover landing site characterisation and rover target selection during its real-time operations. Specifically, scientists shared and correlated atmospheric data, analysis and simulations based on actual main Mars satellites, compared data for geology and geodesy, and benchmarked satellite- and ground-based Mars atmospheric measurements. Data took into consideration the European Space Agency’s Mars rover missions of 2016 (ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter), 2018 and 2020. A website was set up to disseminate project results and encourage collaboration among the scientific and research communities. As such, it contains a public portal and a scientific community portal. CROSS DRIVE contributed to improving data analysis and exploitation of space-based observations. This will not only allow scientists to work together by using each other’s data and tools, but to do so between missions.
Virtual reality, space science, CROSS DRIVE, rover operations, planetary science