Monitoring active volcanism with the Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment on EO-1

A. G. Davies, S. Chien, V. Baker, T. Doggett, J. Dohm, R. Greeley, F. Ip, R. Castan ̌o, B. Cichy, G. Rabideau, D. Tran, R. Sherwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


The ability to monitor and rapidly react to remote detection of volcanic activity has been greatly improved through use of the Autonomous Sciencecraft Experiment (ASE), an advanced software application installed on a spacecraft in Earth orbit. ASE is a NASA New Millennium Program experiment demonstrating science-driven autonomous command and control of a spacecraft. Flying on the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) spacecraft, ASE successfully detected thermal emission from the Mt. Erebus lava lake on 7 May 2004, having analyzed a Hyperion hyperspectral data product on board the spacecraft. EO-1 was re-tasked by ASE to obtain a follow-up observation 7 h later and sent a notification of detection of volcanic activity to the ground. The entire process was carried out autonomously. Initial acquisition to receipt on the ground of the positive detection took less than 3 h, a process that without ASE would have taken weeks. The ASE Thermal Classifier has detected several styles of effusive volcanic activity: active lava lakes, pahoehoe flow fields, open channel flows and lava domes. ASE successfully demonstrated that science-driven spacecraft operation greatly enhances science return per returned byte through the identification of the most valuable data, allowing prioritization of downlink products and the discarding of null data sets. This technology has applications on missions elsewhere in the solar system. Modified thermal classifiers can be used for detecting and monitoring active volcanism on the jovian satellite Io, the neptunian moon Triton, and searching for active volcanism on Mars and icy satellites. The success of ASE is an incentive for future instrument and mission designers to consider on-board data-processing requirements (especially data storage capacity, number of processors and processor speed, and RAM) in order to take advantage of this flight-proven technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)427-446
Number of pages20
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 30 2006


  • Hazard monitoring
  • Hyperspectral imaging
  • Remote sensing
  • Spacecraft autonomy
  • Volcanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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