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Perception and Navigation for Exploration of Shadowed Domains

Award Information
Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Branch: N/A
Contract: NNX15CA62P
Agency Tracking Number: 150118
Amount: $124,943.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: T11.01
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2015
Award Year: 2015
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2015-06-17
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2016-06-17
Small Business Information
2515 Liberty Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-4613
United States
DUNS: 019738852
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 William Whittaker
 University Professor
 (412) 268-1338
Business Contact
 Steven Huber
Title: Business Official
Phone: (281) 389-8171
Research Institution
 Carnegie Mellon University
 Robert Kearns
5000 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3815
United States

 (412) 268-5837
 Domestic Nonprofit Research Organization

On-the-ground confirmation of lunar ice will transform space exploration, as ice can provide fuel to support far-reaching exploration and enable commercial endeavors. Evidence from satellite observations strongly supports the presence of polar ice, but driving and excavation are required to confirm presence, measure distribution, and extract resources. In-situ resource extraction at the lunar poles is the precursor for permanent operations on the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
The most promising sites for lunar ice lie in the rugged terrain of the permanently shadowed regions at the poles. These destinations demand robust perception and navigation technologies that provide high position accuracy regardless of lighting conditions.
Existing rover technologies are incapable of the types of perception and navigation required by the challenges of a dark environment that restrict the rover's ability to perceive its surroundings and overcome inherent positional uncertainty. Even the rover's own shadow can present a significant obstacle while operating in the glancing sunlight of polar regions.
The proposed work will develop novel methods for sensing, mapping, and localization in and around the permanently dark regions of planetary bodies. The research will enable the exploration of previously inaccessible dark environments including pits, cold traps, and subterranean voids such as lava tubes and caves on the Moon and Mars. NASA's decadal science survey prioritizes exploration of ancient ices, highlighting a mission to study lunar volatiles in the permanent shadows on the lunar poles. The proposed work innovates perception and navigation technologies to make such polar missions possible.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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