Seattle’s First Mode team and Western Washington University say they’ve won a NASA contract to advance the technology for sizing up rocks on Mars.
The project, funded under NASA’s Solar System Workings program, will support the development of an automated tool known as a goniometer. Such a tool could be used on future Mars missions to measure angles precisely in three dimensions.
“If you used a protractor in grade school to measure angles, you used a simple version of a goniometer,” First Mode’s Kathleen Hoza and Rhae Adams explained in a blog posting about the project.
On Mars, such a device should facilitate spectral observations of rock samples at different angles, opening the way for more detailed chemical analyses. One of the cameras on NASA’s Curiosity rover has been used to make goniometer measurements in Mars’ Gale Crater.
Melissa Rice, a planetary scientist at Western Washington University, is principal investigator for the newly announced project.