MER Spirit rover localization: Comparison of ground image- and orbital image-based methods and science applications

Rongxing Li, Shaojun He, Yunhang Chen, Min Tang, Pingbo Tang, Kaichang Di, Larry Matthies, Raymond E. Arvidson, Steven W. Squyres, Larry S. Crumpler, Tim Parker, Michael Sims

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


During 6 years of continuous operations on the Martian surface, the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Spirit has covered a traverse of approximately 7 km from the landing point to its current position at "Troy" near Home Plate. Localization of Spirit (and Opportunity) has been performed using two different methods: one that employs an incremental bundle adjustment (IBA) using rover imagery, and one that compares image features common to both a rover orthoimage and an orbital orthoimage. The IBA method continuously yields the desired 3-D rover positions at a very high level of accuracy and provides a simultaneous solution for high-quality topographic mapping of neighborhoods surrounding the rover. On the other hand, high-resolution orbital imagery can verify rover positions wherever the rover track is visible. Rapid rover localization on the orbital orthoimage is often achieved by comparing a rover orthoimage to the orbital orthoimage. In this paper, we present research results from a systematic comparison of these two localization methods over the entire length of the Spirit traverse. Two orbital orthoimages were generated from High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imagery. Integration of Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) data into the HiRISE digital elevation model (DEM) and orthoimage generation was performed and proved to be effective in reducing large inconsistencies between MOLA and HiRISE data. This study found an overall difference of 1.5 percent of the traversed distance between the two sets of traverse positions derived using the two different localization methods. After a geometric transformation from one traverse to the other, the remaining inconsistency then represents the local differences between them and can be reduced to a level of less than 0.15 percent. Discussions of error sources and the strength and weakness of the methods are given. Scientific applications of the localization data are also briefly introduced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE00F16
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'MER Spirit rover localization: Comparison of ground image- and orbital image-based methods and science applications'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this