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Pointools Ltd.


Testing the Potential for Laser Scanners on Mars

Models of lava tube create 3-D walk-through for NASA

Published: Thursday, June 17, 2010 - 12:40

(Pointools: London) -- Software from Pointools is being used to create 3-D walk-through models to explore the viability of laser scanning on the moon and Mars. Researchers from Navajo Technical College, together with representatives from NASA and New Mexico Tech, laser scanned a volcanic formation in New Mexico, gathering 240 million individual measurements. These were processed using Pointools software to create an immersive and interactive 3-D computer model from which NASA scientists can assess the potential of laser scanning for future missions.

The survey party, using a FARO LS 120 laser scanner, mapped the Four Windows Cave lava tube at El Malpais National Monument in New Mexico, collecting eight individual scans, each composed of 30 million points. The project was designed to understand the viability of laser scanning lava tubes and other formations on the moon and Mars, and to provide examples of the type of data laser scanning could collect and the information that could be interpreted from the laser mapping. 

“This project was a proof of concept for NASA to determine what kind of data could be acquired by sending a rover vehicle, equipped with a laser scanner, into a lave tube or cave on the moon or Mars,” says H. Scott Halliday, course leader at Navajo Technical College. “From the Pointools model, we can make an evaluation of the type of structures that can be picked up and conclude whether it is possible to determine water, ice, and or microorganisms. This was a great experience for the students, and both NASA and New Mexico Tech have been impressed with the results.”

The walk-through clearly shows members of the survey team and survey equipment together with ice formations and details of past volcanic activity. “We selected Pointools software for this project because it seemed to be the easiest and most appropriate software to use that would create the type of walk-through visualizations required,” explains Halliday. “We are exploring ways of modelling only what need to be modelled and using more of the point-cloud data in 3-D visualizations and simulations.”


About The Author

Pointools Ltd.’s picture

Pointools Ltd.

Pointools Ltd. is an independent technology company focused on developing state-of-the-art software solutions to maximize the potential of point-cloud data—the millions of 3-D measurements usually collected by laser scanning devices. With applications in a wide range of markets including design, manufacturing, construction, engineering, heritage, and surveying to name but a few, the Pointools software portfolio includes the market leading manufacturer independent point-cloud visualization and presentation solution.