Building a Community for Planetary Geological Mapping


Building a Community for Planetary Geological Mapping 

Europlanet Magazine - Issue 1

 Angelo Pio Rossi (Jacobs University) describes Europlanet’s new geological mapping activity, GMAP.   

Read article in the fully formatted PDF of the Europlanet Magazine.

 Planetary data have been used for geological mapping since the start of the space era half a century ago. Not only do geological maps increase our knowledge of planetary surfaces and their history, they are crucial for ‘In-Situ Resource Utilisation’ – identifying local materials that could be used sustainably for future human and robotic exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond. 

The Geological Mapping (GMAP) activity within the Europlanet 2024 Research Infrastructure (RI) project focuses on providing tools and services to create, publish and preserve geological maps of Solar System bodies. A major ambition of GMAP is to create an active user group that can provide standards, documentation and tools for the growing community of planetary mappers around the world. 

For decades, the process of geological mapping was manual, with hand-drawn and coloured units over a blank basemap. Digital mapping is now used, based on both orbital and rover/lander data, matched with modern technology and analytical tools.  Credit: C Montagna/PLANMAP/GMAP

Our first step in developing the GMAP user group was to hold a virtual Planetary Mapping Winter School in February 2021, co-organised with colleagues from the PLANMAP project. Registration was oversubscribed and the training school was attended by 200 early career researchers from every continent, with over 100 participating in live sessions, and around 70 accessing asynchronous content. Following up on the workshop, we launched the first call for registration of GMAP Community Mappers, and over 50 to date have signed up for information on the GMAP community mailing list.

GMAP already has links with several international partners, and the Chinese counterpart of GMAP has been funded recently within the framework of the China- EU co-funding mechanism. The project (Key Technologies and Demonstration of Standardised Planetary Geologic Mapping) aims to develop standardised geological mapping technologies and methods for extracting features from thematic maps, and to make them accessible for implementation in the of upcoming Chinese and European lunar and planetary missions, such as Chang’E-5-8, Tianwen-1 and BepiColombo. Products that come out of the project will be disseminated through the GMAP data portals, and the joint activities will foster collaborations between mappers in Europe, Asia and beyond. 

The GMAP Project Team: University of Padova, Jacobs University Bremen, CBK PAN, DLR, ISPRA, INAF, Jacobs University Bremen, Università d’Annunzio, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität, China University of Geosciences (Beijing), Wuhan University, Peking University, Shandong University and National Space Science Center of China Academy of Science. 

Issue 1 of Europlanet Magazine

Inspiring Stories – Outreach activities in a European project like PLANMAP

Inspiring Stories – Outreach activities in a European project like PLANMAP

In this EPEC Inspiring Outreach Story, Gloria Tognon, a doctoral student at the Center of Studies and Activities for Space ‘G. Colombo’ of Padua (Italy), tells us about her experience of taking part in the European PLANMAP project.

Scientific knowledge is not just intended for a limited number of people and should be shared and made accessible to everyone. The Horizon 2020 PLANetary MAPping (PLANMAP) project is committed to the production of highly informative geological maps of Mars, Mercury, and the Moon, and every European partner dedicated part of its activities to communication and dissemination.

The main aim of PLANMAP was for several products (geological and spectral maps, 3D geomodels, and virtual environments) to be made freely available online to the scientific community as well as the general public. A particular focus was put on the promotion of planetary geology to young people through the creation of downloadable artworks, digital story maps, and a comic novel published in a special issue of the PLaNCK! Magazine about PLANMAP, “Geomapping other worlds” , which also contained interviews with young researchers working on the project.

Within the framework of outreach activities for young people in the general public, all PLANMAP partners actively organised and participated in festivals, public talks, seminars and school activities. Kids in particular were the main targets of European Researchers’ Nights, and although the events were open to the general public, I can tell you that young people from 5 to 10 years old constituted the real audience. The creation of games and video presentations as a way to engage and hold their attention while explaining difficult ideas in the easiest and funniest way was a crucial step. It may not always be easy for adults to think of ways to communicate science to young people, but for me, videos and games represent a recreational pursuit and a super rewarding experience.

Stands of planetary geology at the European Researchers’ Nights 2018 and 2019 at the University of Padua.
Credit: PLANMAP

Less imagination and more practical thinking were required in February 2021 when the PLANMAP project concluded its activities, and put its last efforts into organising the virtual ‘Geology & Planetary Mapping Winter School’, which engaged more than 50 instructors from at least 9 European institutions to address 150 registered participants from all around the world. During the school, I had the great opportunity to share my knowledge of planetary geologic mapping with the students, and to organise the final event displaying the ‘Virtual Reality environments for planetary applications and training for astronauts’. Promoted, funded and sustained by the Ambassade de France en Italie-Institut Français en Italie, Center of Studies and Activities for Space “G. Colombo” of Padua and the PLANMAP project, this event provided online lectures and a virtual reality experience simultaneously held in Padua and Nantes. Participants had an amazing chance to have a real-world perception of another planet, and take a field trip to Mars to perform scientific measurements in the field.

Interactive VR experience with geologic science measurements inside the PLANMAP environment. 
Credit: PLANMAP

I can assure you that engaging with people and sharing your knowledge with them will help you develop your communication skills and self-confidence. Above all, it is the most worthwhile life experience!

Do you like this story and want more? Browse our archive of EPEC Inspiring Stories and get inspired!

China-EU Project Launched to Support Planetary Geological Mapping

China-EU Project Launched to Support Planetary Geological Mapping

A new project to support planetary geological mapping has received funding within framework of the China-EU co-funding mechanism (CFM) on research and innovation cooperation. ‘Key Technologies and Demonstration of Standardised Planetary Geologic Mapping’ is led by Prof Zhizhong Kang of the China University of Geosciences, Beijing (CUGB). The funding of 3,160,000 RMB (~400,000 Euros) for the National Key Research and Development Project runs from 1st December 2020 until 30th November 2023.

The project aims to develop key technologies to standardise planetary geological mapping and implement the methods in geological mapping for current and upcoming Chinese and European lunar and planetary missions, e.g. Chang’E-5-8, TianWen-1 and BepiColumbo. It will focus on multiple thematic map feature extraction and standardisation of geological mapping technologies.

The project team involves several partners from the Europlanet 2024 RI consortium, including CUGB (Project PI), Wuhan University, Peking University, Shandong University, National Space Science Center of China Academy of Science, University of Padova, Jacobs University Bremen and Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität.

Tasks:

  • Topographic mapping based on cognitive enhancement (Wuhan University)
  • Reconstruction method of planetary subsurface structure based on radar data and optical images (Peking University)
  • Quantitative inversion of elements and minerals on planetary surfaces (Shandong University)
  • Ground verification of quantitative remote sensing inversion on planetary surfaces (National Space Science Center, China Academy of Science)
  • Standardisation of planetary geological mapping (China University of Geosciences, Beijing)