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Paper: Passengers on Voyages of Exploration: The Beautiful and Surprising Work Amateurs Can do with Raw Image Data from Planetary Missions
Volume: 400, Preparing for the 2009 International Year of Astronomy: A Hands-on Symposium
Page: 436
Authors: Lakdawalla, E.S.
Abstract: Many recent planetary science missions, including the Mars Exploration Rovers, Cassini-Huygens, and New Horizons, have instituted a policy of the rapid release of “raw” images to the Internet within days or even hours of their acquisition. The availability of these data, along with the increasing power of home computers and availability of high-bandwidth Internet connections, have stimulated the development of a worldwide community of armchair planetary scientists, who are able to participate in the everyday drama of exploratory missions’ encounters with new worlds and new landscapes. Far from passive onlookers, many of these enthusiasts have taught themselves image processing techniques and have even written software to perform automated processing and mosaicking of these raw data sets. They rapidly produce stunning visualizations and then post them to their own blogs or online forums, where they also engage in discussing scientific observations and inferences about the data sets, broadening missions’ public outreach efforts beyond their direct reach. These amateur space scientists feel a deep sense of involvement in and connection to space missions, which makes them enthusiastic (and occasionally demanding) supporters of space exploration.
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