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Menu: | Blog: SpaceDataWiki Blog | Project summary page at SourceForge |
Pages: |*An SDW Web 2.0 Application *IRC Channel *JP2 and JPIP *PostGIS for the Uninitiated *Setting up GeoServer *SpaceDataWiki Planning *Worldwind Plugin


Welcome the Space Data Wiki Project

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

~ The Four Quartets ~ T. S. Eliot

Develop innovative tools, means and methods to enable the public to engage interactively in human exploration.

~ ISECG Reference Architecture for Human Exploration, 20 July 2010 ~


SpaceDataWiki is the engine that powers Exploration Commons which currently uses Drupal, OpenLayers and GeoServer. Project intention is to work with the International Space Exploration Coordination Group Architecture for Human Exploration.

You can read a discussion below that covers the finer aspects, but I want to jump straight to a practical example.

In the approach to Lunar exploration identified in the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG) Architecture for Human Exploration (20 July 2010) a phased plan is formulated. Once we know the locations of future landing sites and exploration on the Moon using this plan then Exploration Commons can be used to allow public participation in resource discovery. As well as possible sites for exploration and submitted original ideas that could be incorporated into an international plan of exploration.

Reference Architecture Overview, illustrating phased approach. The years across the top of the figure indicate years before or after Human Lunar Return. Taken from the ISECG Reference Architecture for Human Exploration.
Map of the Moon showing notional destinations for the Reference Mission. Colours correspond to the phases in the Reference Architecture Overview. Taken from the ISECG Reference Architecture for Human Exploration.

The green circle at the South Pole shows the location of a possible rover mission that, as part of its tasks, would be resource prospecting. With such a location opened up to public scrutiny through Exploration Commons the public can then see how their participation is directly relevant to the entire international Global Exploration Strategy. Observations become part of a collective and social discourse involving social networking and a community willing to share Scientific skills and insights as part of a shared exploration. It is the software part of Exploration Commons that is an essential element in allowing this to happen ... just as Mediawiki is an essential part of Wikipedia. The software element is SpaceDataWiki ... the engine of Exploration Commons.

Social Media in Space

A Solar System internet and special IP protocols are being ironed out. Scientists, explorers and private companies are using satellites around the Moon, Mars and other worlds which might one day include Exoplanets. They use the satellites to communicate with robotic explorers that will one day be joined by human explorers.

The Social Web has standards and protocols being used and in development that facilitate the categorisation and sharing of information, as well as the sharing of social contacts that use that information. A web application would allow participation in collaborative exploration of the Moon and Mars. Such an application would allow both Scientists and individuals to share discoveries. The Linux and Wikipedia models have proved that allowing free access to the raw materials of a project, mediated by carefully designed software, allows successful collaboration to happen. Order appears to spontaneously evolve out of chaos. In the open source software world this has much to do with the carefully designed code revision systems that are used with the open source code (SVN, CVS, Git, Bazaar). Open source documents such as those in the Wikipedia system use Mediawiki which is one example of a "code revision" system for text. It is this element of carefully designed software that allows a spirit of collaboration to become effective.

In academia the interpretation of planetary images is restricted to those qualified in various disciplines, just as code was once restricted to paid and qualified personnel (this has changed in some areas with amateur astronomers contributing to astronomy in recent years). The handling of large amounts of space data, both images and other types (radio for example), has an uncanny resemblance to the problem that large code bases had before the discovery of the Open Source solution.

"Of particular concern is the vast amount of data anticipated from ongoing and planned missions."
Planetary Cartography 2006 - 2016: Planetary Cartography and Geologic Mapping Working Group

Planetary surfaces are by their very nature difficult to track. They are made up of geology produced by nature that is fractal (ref). This has long been a problem in Geology that was solved by Beniot Mandelbrot with his research into how to measure complex coastlines. His research discovered that you can't measure very complex coastlines. You can only give them a fractal index. This research was required for the implementation of various legalities related to coastlines and borders. The research is much more widely known as the Mandlebrot Set which bought to the world the concept of infinite complexity in infinite combinations.

This is the problem that the exploration of planetary surfaces suffers from, maybe more so than carefully worded code bases which can, for example, be automatically documented. Essentially a planetary surface IS a fractal and the infinite zoomability of that surface is only limited by our technology. The problem is immediately visible with the HiRise datasets from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Despite a clever data storage system (JPEG 2000) the images are unwieldy and difficult to handle. There is no agreed way to allow Scientists and the public to record observations that can be shared and stored for later investigation. In a conversation with a Planetary Scientist SDW learned that Planetary Scientists mark discoveries on images in an ad hoc fashion, although this situation may have changed at the current time. This is the aim of the Space Data Wiki system. To apply the standards and software to allow maximum participation in space exploration in the same revolutionary way that we have seen Open Source software and Wikipedia change the world. That way can allow the proper exploration of space, just as Wikipedia has allowed the proper dissemination of knowledge.

In the future it will be possible to use a two way system that shares comments and annotations from explorers in the Solar system and the public on Earth.

The kind of equipment mineral prospectors use in the field today.
Geology software in the field (Map IT and Easy Note.
MAP IT: The GIS software for field mapping with tablet pc , Journal of Computers and Geosciences, Mauro De Donatis, Lorenzo Bruciatelli.
"Map IT can associate various geographical objects with textual information or with the link to any document readable in Windows (.doc, .xls, .mdb, images, html files, etc.) via Easy Note, a tool for taking impromptu notes (Fig. 2). When the Easy Note window appears on the screen, it is possible to write on the note free-hand using the digital pen or by typing text using the keyboard.

It can be attached by just clicking on the features already existing in the base cartography or Easy Note is automatically displayed when a new graphic object is inserted, or it can be linked to an existing feature on the map by clicking on it. Or, simply dragging a document inside the yellow Easy Note window creates a link to the file from any application present on the PC (Fig. 3).

Hovering the pen pointer over a graphic object which already has associated information, the user may display the previously stored text or open the documents linked to the object.

This slip of paper becomes a multimedia collector of all the information that the surveyor intends to associate to a given graphic object." (P 676 of the paper).

The software has the capability to remotely exchange data with a server, but so far there is no widely used system for allowing the sharing of annotations that leverage's the abilities of the social web that would allow the sharing of discoveries and the ability to contact and find knowledgeable parties who could advise or be interested in a particular discovery.

".. may have an "Architecture of participation" that encourages users to add value to the application as they use it."


"Much has been written recently about the power of social networks and the famed 'six degrees of separation.' Suppose you could go online and make relevant connections with others from whom you are separated by one, two, or three degrees? Suppose that while working on a solar energy project in California, you could use such a system to find an engineer in Shanghai whose experience is directly relevant to your project? Could the Internet be used to establish networks of trust that cross traditional borders? Can the Internet be better at supporting the ability of citizens to self-organize and participate in civil society?"

The Social Web: Building an Open Social Network with XDI


Focus is currently on using Drupal, OpenLayers and GeoServer to make a system where the user adds a marker to a map that can be linked to a wiki page describing that location. The GEDI: Groundtruthing Environment for Document Images (SourceForge) could be used to allow the marking of downloaded data that is not available in GIS form. The GEDI software stores annotations in XML form that could then be linked to a GIS map that shows which images at which locations have been marked by users with the XML available to allow recovery of the annotations in a downloaded image. This allows data to be retained in existing archives (one being the Planetary Data System).

Development direction is currently changing in light of the above as new approaches and ideas are discovered. Anyone is welcome to contribute by joining the project.

28/10/12: At the moment Mediawiki Semantic Maps extension is being tested for use with SDW. Mediawiki could be used to share observations between independent installations of Mediawiki similar to the Instant Commons feature. This may be a much more robust approach as observations would not be held in a central place. This is somewhat like the Diaspora social network. At the present time SDW has gone through some revisions of it's approach and the project descriptions and wiki need revising (pending). However the core aims and goals are still the same.
Some current issues/considerations are ...
  • How is the relationship between different resolution images maintained ? Some features are resolved differently at different resolutions but can be just as significant in low resolution images vs high resolution. At high resolution some features can seem to disappear that were visible at low resolution, for example geological features.
  • Sharing of observations can be achieved not just through editing in of marks or comments (annotating) but through tracking of image viewing statistics. This can reveal interesting patterns of viewing behaviour that could reveal certain features. For example IIPAnalyze is currently capable of doping this.

Related Projects

http://iipimage.sourceforge.net/ http://opticks.org/confluence/display/opticks/Welcome+To+Opticks http://www.dstretch.com/news.html

Related Links

http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Remote_Sensing_Digital_Image_Analysis.html?id=4PB5vhPBdJ4C USES OF OPEN SOURCE REMOTE SENSING SOFTWARE FOR INTEROPERABLE GEO-WEB IMPLEMENTATION - http://www.isprs.org/proceedings/XXXVIII/part8/pdf/W08P02_20100216134415.pdf

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