A distributed instrument is an instrument designed to collect spatially and temporally correlated data from many networked, geographically distributed point sensors. A distributed instrument is more than the sum of its sensors: by strategically scheduling measurements across a region to capture data with spatial context, it can provide insight into spatially and temporally correlated phenomena that is impossible to obtain using only rovers or orbiters. It is generally recognized that distributed instruments hold promise to unlock answers to key questions in planetary science that cannot be addressed by point measurements or orbiters alone, including how solar tides influence the Martian atmosphere, how pressure waves propagate across a planet, from where trace gas emissions originate, and what is the interior composition of icy bodies. In this talk, we explore the scientific promise of distributed instruments and their technology feasibility. First, we identify a number of high-priority scientific questions that can be uniquely addressed by such instruments with existing or tipping point technologies, including seismometry, Martian atmospheric science, trace gas detection, and magnetometry. Next, we identify the technologies that should be further developed to bring distributed instruments to reality. We show that communication, computation, localization, and synchronization technologies are sufficiently mature for distributed instruments; and EDL, power, and autonomy technologies are close to maturity, painting a promising picture of the feasibility of distributed instruments for planetary science.
Dr. Federico Rossi
Robotics Technologist with the Maritime and Multi-Agent Autonomy Group at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech. He earned a Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford in 2018, an M.Sc. in Space Engineering from Politecnico di Milano, and a Diploma from the Alta Scuola Politecnica in 2013. His research focuses on optimal control and distributed decision-making in multi-agent robotic systems, with applications to planetary exploration and Earth science.