Hometown: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Graduation date: Fall 2022
MORE | Fall 2022
Mars Data Exploration
The purpose of this research project is to build a data pipeline to process the high-resolution images produced by various cameras (Mastcam-Z, Navcam, Hazcam, etc.) on the Perseverance rover. The format of the image data provided by NASA’s Planetary Data System is not directly usable and is therefore processed in order to be functional and viewable. Also, the image metadata will be studied and utilized to generate accurate 3D meshes from the 2D images produced from the pipeline. These meshes can then be used to create interactive and immersive Martian experiences in extended reality applications.
Mentor: Robert LiKamWa
Featured project | Fall 2022
Computer science graduate student Radhika Ganapathy is building a pipeline for Mars image data to be processed and viewed in extended reality applications like virtual reality. Images taken by Mars rovers are not viewable in their original format, so Ganapathy is working with Robert LiKamWa, an associate professor of electrical engineering in the Fulton Schools with a dual appointment in the ASU School of Arts, Media and Engineering, and LiKamWa’s Meteor Studio extended reality research lab to create a new open-source tool to view Mars rover images for a variety of applications.
Why did you choose the project you’re working on?
My interests lie in solving real-world problems related to data and human visual perception. In particular, I am inclined toward understanding the way people look at and interact with visual data. I got an opportunity to work under Dr. Robert LiKamWa and [Graduate Research Assistant] Lauren Gold at Meteor Studios on their Mars Data Explore team. The project entailed scraping and processing planetary data to make it usable in an extended reality environment. I chose to work on this project because it was riveting and would serve as a great asset to the mixed-reality planetary projects that are in the works at ASU.
How will your engineering research project impact the world?
There are very few open-source tools available to scrape and access planetary data, mainly images, that are being recorded by rovers on Mars. The data that NASA publishes through the Planetary Data System is not in a viewable format. They use their native image format that requires processing before it can be used for any application.
Through the pipeline I am building, one can download and view Martian images that are being captured by the Perseverance Rover during the Mars 2020 mission. This open-source project can be used by the world to scrape Mars data and use them for various applications. Currently, the data is going to be used for the project “Mars on the Field,” a pilot project undertaken by the ASU Interplanetary Initiative. This will also be crucial for planetary scientists to conduct rover planning and prototype pilot missions in virtual reality before executing them on Mars.
What has your research experience been like as a MORE student? Did you have a particular “aha!” moment during your project?
My time as a student researcher in this program has been fulfilling. There have been times when I have found myself frustrated with a bug or an error, but that same frustration turns into an “aha!” moment when you crack the code. A particular example was when I was trying to decode white images and get them to show correctly.
Have there been any surprises in your research?
Every day throws a surprise in the form of a bug or a new problem statement. But we also get good surprises in the form of good-looking Martian images.
How do you see this experience helping with your career goals?
This project has challenged me as a software engineer. It has equipped me with skills that are valuable to my career. This opportunity has also helped me step foot into research. I learned how to use new web scraping frameworks and image processing techniques. I referred to available research in this field and implemented it in my project. I got to read about Mars and the way data is captured through the rovers. This project is a beautiful amalgamation of space exploration and technology and shows how technology can solve real-world problems.
Why should other students get involved in MORE?
This program is a golden opportunity for students to get a taste of research and decide if they do want to pursue research as a career. The flexibility this program offers with respect to research topics and problem statements is great and can thereby inspire students to work in their area of interest.