Geographic Information Systems at the Ronald Greeley Center for

46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (2015)
STUDIES. D. M. Nelson1 and D. A. Williams1, 1School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University,
Tempe, AZ 85287 ([email protected]).
Introduction: The NASA Regional Planetary Information Facilities (RPIFs) have historically provided
images, literature, and education pertaining to past and
existing planetary missions. The personnel at the
Ronald Greeley Center for Planetary Studies (RGCPS),
the RPIF of Arizona State University, are augmenting
their facility with the addition of a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) computer laboratory. The current and future Data Managers of the Center will be
responsible for maintaining the GIS lab, instructing
researchers on the use of GIS and image processing
software, and act as the resident expert of all planetary
data formats. The goal of this augmentation will be to
encourage the scientific community to receive training
and perform research using planetary data at the
The RGCPS: Regional Planetary Image (or Information) Facilities (RPIF) were originally established in
the 1970s to serve two primary functions: 1) to archive
photographs and literature from active and completed
planetary missions, and 2) to provide researchers and
the public access to the archive for scientific research,
future mission planning, and education/public outreach
[1]. There are currently 9 US and 7 international RPIFs
that continue to provide these services at the local and
regional level.
The RGCPS, originally the Space Photography Laboratory, was established by Professor Ronald Greeley
at Arizona State University (ASU) in 1977 as a branch
of the U.S. Geological Survey RPIF [2]. By 1982, the
facility at ASU because a full, independent RPIF, and
in 1992 was moved to a 2740 ft2 climate-controlled lab
(Figure 1). After the death of Dr. Greeley in 2011, the
facility was renamed the “Ronald Greeley Center for
Planetary Studies”. Since its inception, the RGCPS has
been utilized to aid and support planetary geology research for faculty, staff, and students at ASU, as well
as visiting scientists. The over-arching goal has been to
promote and disseminate the results of NASA Planetary Science Division programs and missions, particularly those in which ASU has been involved (including
the Mars Pathfinder, Mars Exploration Rovers, Galileo, and DAWN missions).
GIS at the RGCPS: With the advent of the Internet, the images and literature originally exclusive to
the RPIFs have become increasingly available electronically for download. As a result, fewer people utilize the RGCPS for research—although support for
education, public outreach, and student access for clas-
ses continues undiminished. While planetary data have
become widely distributed, there is still a strong need
for experts to educate potential users regarding planetary image formats and the software needed to ingest
and process the data.
All planetary image data are archived by NASA
through the Planetary Data System (PDS) and freely
available to the public. However, the data are not
readily readable by commonly accessible image viewing software, such as Adobe Photoshop™. In addition,
most image data require a comprehensive database of
camera-pointing information (e.g., SPICE kernels [3]
to process the images) to correct for geometric distortion and balance photometry. Furthermore, software
used for planetary mapping, such as ArcGIS™ [4], is
very expensive and can be overwhelming to the new
user—although there are cheaper alternatives that can
be used, such as QGIS (a still-developing open-source,
multi-platform GIS) [5], and Adobe Illustrator™ (a
non-GIS graphic design software).
Beginning in 2014, the personnel at the RGCPS
have taken the initiative to transform the existing facility into a digital planetary GIS laboratory. Currently,
we have five dedicated dual-screen GIS workstations,
each of which have ArcGIS™ 10.2 [4] and JMars [6]
installed. In addition, the computers have access to a
Linux server for image processing with ISIS 3 (Integrated System for Imagers and Spectrometers) [7]. Our
goal over the next five years is to develop GIS projects
for all terrestrial planets, outer planet satellites, and the
larger small bodies. Already in development are GIS
databases for Io and Vesta, as well as Titan, through a
collaboration with the RPIF at Cornell University.
To facilitate training, the RGCPS Data Manager is
developing seminar-style classes on planetary GIS.
These will consisting of 3 or more hour-long sessions,
including such topics as: overview of the basic software components of ArcGIS™, understanding and
integrating image datasets into ArcGIS™, creating and
editing vector data files, and correctly projecting
planetary datasets onto differently planetary bodies to
enable surface measurements. More advanced seminars will include using ArcGIS™ as a planetary research tool, and the development of planetary mapping
databases. Initially, these seminars will be made available to students and researchers at ASU, and will eventually accessible visiting planetary scientists in the
American Southwest.
By reinventing the RGCPS as a digital planetary
GIS laboratory, our goal is to facilitate planetary re-
46th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (2015)
search not only by providing image datasets, but also
providing the instruction to understand and process
data from a variety of disparate planetary missions. In
this way, we will bring the photograph-based image
archives into the digital age.
[1] [2] http://
[3] toolkit_docs/C/
info/intrdctn.html [4]
Figure 1. The Ronald Greeley Center for Planetary Studies, at Arizona State University, site of the developing
digital planetary GIS laboratory.