July 28, 2010 6:19 AM
University of Delaware
University of Delaware
University of Delaware
One of Google's famous "20% time" projects, by software engineer Jason Holt and co-workers, Liquid Galaxy is an immersive Google Earth experience made by synchronizing eight flat-panel displays arranged in a large arc around the user and controlled with a commercial 6-axis joystick. The effect is nothing short of jaw-dropping. As Holt himself put it:
...all of a sudden, flying around in Google Earth really felt like flying, and exploring the ocean trenches was like piloting a submarine. When you splashed through the sea surface you cringed slightly, expecting to get wet. You could even command your own lander down to the Moon or Mars...With the Liquid Galaxy, we could fly through the Grand Canyon, leap into low-Earth orbit, and come back down to perch on the Great Pyramid of Giza without even breaking a sweat.
If I had a place to put it, I'd be building one of these right now. [via Mashable]Read the Full Story » | More on MAKE » | Comments » | Read more articles in Computers | Digg this!
The PLRP 2010 field season has come to a close and I am both saddened by the fact that operations are finished for another year but excited by the prospect of adding the data we've collected this year to our growing body of knowledge about this unique lake. I am in awe of the work that has been done by this amazing team and of how much we've grown, while maintaining the sense of adventure and camaraderie that to me, helps to define the PLRP.
We've taken great strides towards answering many of our research questions and in the process, with every answer we have come up with many more questions that will keep the PLRP team occupied for quite some time. Fortunately, our family continues to grow and every year we welcome new individuals who bring a unique perspective and desire to tease out the mysteries Pavilion has to offer. We have also been blessed this year by the addition of two little members to the PLRP family, Darlene Lim's daughter Amelia and Greg Slater's son Joseph. We look forward to the day when they are exploring the lake alongside us.
The PLRP provides a wealth of research opportunities, and not just those focused on understanding the processes leading to the formation of the structures at Pavilion Lake but also to understanding fundamental biological, chemical and physical processes. The research contributions from our participating scientists and graduate students have resulted in a number of recent publications and are essential to increasing our understanding of Earth and astrobiological systems. We're very proud of the role that the PLRP has played in developing operational technologies and protocols that not only help us meet our science objectives but provide important input into future space science missions.
With the addition of our two newest scientist pilots, astronauts Chris Hadfield and Stan Love, we had 34 DeepWorker missions over 10 days of operations. This year we were aided greatly in our pre-season flight planning by the wonderful team from NASA Ames led by Matt Deans and David Lees who developed an amazing flight planning tool that enabled us to search images and flight paths from previous years while building flight plans in Google Earth. Flights this year were planned to collect images of the remaining unexplored regions of the lake, to record detailed images of areas of interest identified from 2008 and 2009 data and to use the submersibles in combination with other analytical tools such as a conductivity, temperature and depth (CTD) instrument and our autonomous underwater vehicle(s) (AUV). Our ability to review post-flight video data in the field, an effort pioneered in 2009, added greatly to our productivity as this information was used immediately by the science backroom team to modify existing flight plans to best optimize our data collection. As part of the daily flight debriefs, we have also continued to apply metrics associated with scientific productivity to understand factors that influence scientific exploration. New this year to the DeepWorker flight repertoire were long ~ 5 hour flights and two night flights to investigate the grazing activity that we suspect may occur in the lake. To add to the innovations this year, Nick Wilkinson designed a fantastic, interactive program for use in classifying the microbialite images. This new tool will allow us to efficiently organize and process our field data over the coming months. Stay tuned for updates.
In case our DeepWorker operations didn't keep us busy enough, we had a number of other important activities included in the field schedule this year. The UBC and University of Delaware AUV teams produced fantastic images of the lake bottom that were often used to compliment the DeepWorker flights and give us a better picture of where interesting structures and features are in the lake. Numerous SCUBA dives were performed by our intrepid team of divers to collect water and microbialite samples that were shared between various research groups in an effort to combine and compliment analytical findings. These samples will be characterized from a virology, microbial lipid, isotopic and genetic point of view to provide more information about the role of biology in the formation of the microbialites and what biosignatures may be left behind. Water samples were collected from nearby lakes including Crown, Turquoise, Pear and Kelly Lake to continue to help us put Pavilion Lake in context. Kelly Lake, which also hosts microbialites and has been an area of interest to the PLRP team for many years, was also the focus of significant AUV activities this year. Microbial mats were once again collected from the Cariboo Plateau lakes and giant pancakes were eaten by all (well, almost all). As a new participatory activity this year, our visiting teacherswere given the task of selecting a SCUBA dive based on their understanding of the research questions of interest (on their first day no less!). I'm happy to report that they eagerly interviewed members of the team before presenting their selected dive and rationale to the group for inclusion in the next day's diving schedule. Community Day was another great success this year with the team happy to show off our work and answer questions from the many visitors we had to the site. Busy indeed!
We plan on continuing our updates throughout the year as we analyze samples and work through the amazing amount of data that were collected. Thanks to all who have read about our activities and through this process, have joined in our adventure. See you next year!
Its now been just over a week since the end of our adventures at Pavilion Lake and, as I start trying to look at all the data we've collected, I can't help but be impressed with our successes. In addition to the image mosaicing that I was working on, and showed pictures of in an earlier post, my specific focus of being up at the lake was running coordinated missions between the two autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), that we had on-site from the University of British Columbia and the University of Delaware, and the Deepworker vehicles. Our mission planning goals were twofold; joint objectives and joint missions.
Joint objective style missions measure parameters that are relatively static in time (i.e. photos of microbialites). This means that coordinating different platforms isn't necessary but coordinating their datasets are. This requires that the timestamps of each data stream be precisely set and that the dataset is georeferenced to a high degree of accuracy. This work was started last year but continued this year by using the collected images from Deepworker and comparing it with AUV collected data (e.g. high-precision bathymetry).
Joint missions involved a significantly greater degree of coordination as it involved running the vehicles at the same time as the Deepworkers. Our experiment this year was to look at the area of increased salinity at the bottom of the lake. To this end had the Deepworkers crossing the bottom of the basin at about 1 m from the bottom (> 55 m depth), while running UBC-Gavia at 40 m depth. The greatest debate was trying to decide what the minimum safe distance was to be between the two platforms! In the end we ran AUV missions down to 48 m without any problems. Although we're just starting to process all of this data now, from both styles of missions, we're excited about what new perspectives these combined datasets might hold.
On the way back from Kelly Lake, we swung by Pavilion Lake to take some shots of the live sub operations underway. This is a very beautiful part of the world.
Next year the team will be diving into a lake called Kelly Lake, and potentially Pavilion Lake at the same time. This creates a challenge for the communications team. Both sites must have broadband access to the Space Network Research Federation (SNRF) and the Internet, and be able to communicate from site to site at all times.
Satellite connectivity is great, but in this environment the "terrain mask" (steep rise of the terrain all around us) makes it difficult to hit a satcom "bird" in the sky from these high northern latitudes. On top of this, satellite transponder time can be expensive (especially considering the amount of "megahertz" or transponder we need!), and adds a significant "latency" to the communications link (in both directions) because the satellites are orbiting so far above the Earth. This latency can cause problems for some of the operations conducted by this team, and terrestrial interfaces tend to have very low latency.
We took a Trackstick with us in the helicopter, and you can see the path we flew here (thanks to Google Earth!)
So we took off in a helicopter in Lillooet, and flew to Kelly Lake to visit and survey the terrestrial (ground/mountain-based) communications options for communications near the lake. If we can avoid using a satcom link, we'll have greater bandwidth and network performance at the 2011 test operations.
We found several options for connectivity or relay on a few mountains surrounding Kelly Lake, and even some options to link the two lakes together for next year's mission. This begins a year's worth of planning "now". ; )
Hello World! Greetings from the beautiful shore of Pavilion Lake, BC, where the mountains are high, the lake is clear, and the science is plentiful!
I write this sitting in what is probably the most utilized building in camp surrounded by nectarines, apples, and Frankenstein Cookies* (which, deliciously, have just come from the oven). We pile into this building, called Brock's House, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. By day, the room is filled with computers and hard drives and people busily processing data (sometimes while simultaneously watching World Cup Soccer/Football and Tour de France cycling). Every night, we come together as a group for our nightly science meetings. We share ideas, ask questions, get weather updates, summarize our daily activities, are introduced to the newest members of Team Pavilion, and say goodbye to those departing.
At our largest, the team will consist of more than 70 people from all corners of the world. The larger team consists of smaller groups, each with their own objectives that ultimately contribute to PLRP. As I type this, the scuba divers are diving to collect samples and document microbialite growth, while the deep worker subs are exploring the central basin of Pavilion Lake. While a single person pilots the sub, a navigator boat floats above the sub to support the deepwater operations. Meanwhile, at the Hab (Mobile Mission Command Center), located just up the road from Brock's House where I currently sit, people are processing data. Our camp cooks, Jen and Dana, are busily preparing lunch for 61 hungry people (which is no small task). Ashley has headed to town and will be coming back shortly with a truck filled with boxes of food. The UBC (University of British Columbia) AUV team was out running missions before breakfast and are presently on Pavilion Lake to deploy some instruments, and the UD (University of Delaware) AUV team is busily planning missions for the afternoon. I'm part of the UD team, along with Art Trembanis and Jon Gutsche. We work closely with the AUV team from UBC and have been given the team name "Gaviators".
It's hard to believe that it's Saturday, and that we now have six days of work behind us. We arrived on Sunday from Philadelphia, PA via Minneapolis, MN (where we spent a short night due to a late night canceled flight), Denver, CO and finally Vancouver, BC. The drive from Vancouver to Pavilion Lake was gorgeous, and the snow peaked mountains were unlike anything we left behind in Delaware.
Upon our arrival on site, Art, our advisor who participated in the project last year, began showing us around. We visited the Hab and Brock's House, where dinner was waiting for us, and then we wandered down a gravel road and found the lakeside cabins that would be our homes for next two weeks. Along the way, we met many members of Team Pavilion – some who have spent years participating in the project and others, like myself, who were brand new to it.
We all approach the project from diverse backgrounds. We are teachers, biologists, geologists, dieticians, engineers, scuba divers, chemists, artists, astronauts, physicists, astronomers, zoologists, and ecologists. The unique perspective that each individual brings to the group is fascinating – how an artist views sonar data or how a teacher will take the work done here at Pavilion and integrate it into their classroom. To view your work through a different lens is both interesting and important. It stimulates questions and conversations that further drive the work in new directions.
In the days since our arrival, we have had great success mapping Pavilion with our AUV named "Dora". What is an AUV, you might ask?? AUV is short for Autonomous Underwater Vehicle – basically an underwater robot that is equipped with an array of instruments. The AUV maneuvers around Pavilion Lake, traveling along "lines" that we plan in a computer before the mission start. This mission plan is then sent to the AUV and she swims off to collect data while we await on shore for her return. Mission length is controlled by the battery life of the AUV, and typically ranges from 1.5 to 4 hours.
The UD AUV, a Gavia class vehicle, has two sonar systems. Both sonar systems emit sound pulses that travel through the water and then bounce back towards the vehicle when they hit the lake bottom. One, called side-scan sonar, characterizes the type of sediment at the lakebed. The second, interferometric sonar, measures the bathymetry of the lakebed. Using these two instruments, we will produce a high resolution "image" of the bottom of Pavilion Lake. We are able to identify trees, microbalite structures, and underwater landslides in these records. Additionally, the Gavia comes equipped with an Ecopuck sensor, which measures turbidity (how much suspended matter there is in the water) and Chlorophyll A (a measure of primary productivity in the water). A downward facing camera, an oxygen sensor, a temperature sensor, and depth sensor are further part of her payload.
As I walked down the gravel road this evening in the direction of the setting sun, surrounded by people who, a week ago, were complete strangers to me, I thought about how much we have accomplished in the past week and also how much fun we have had together. I'm certainly delighted to have been "engulfed" by such a wonderful team.
*Oh yes, Frankenstein Cookies were successfully thought up by Jen in an attempt to use up some leftover breakfast oatmeal and French toast batter. Add some butter, sugar, chocolate chips, and flour and bake for 10 minutes. Result – Delicious!