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MERIDIAN

Telemetry data visualization system for NASA Jet Propulsion Lab's Mars Exploration Rover (MER) team for the rover, Opportunity. Meridian visualizes optimal orientations of the rover for the maximum available data transfer over time with decision-making tools.


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Meridian entails a three-part process. First, spacecraft system engineers (SSE) decide how many Sols (Sol, is a Martian day) each mission will be on and the rover's current orientation. Second, Meridian displays cards with each overpassing satellite that connects to Opportunity, with the available data transfer in red and purple markings. Third, SSEs can select these headings (the sections of the circle) to have a deeper dive on the raw data over time. 


Main Design Decisions

  • Solely layering information is not helpful alone.
  • Rotatable plots help engineer's orient in the rover’s direction.
  • Switching between cartesian and polar coordinates help focus what is directly in front of the rover.
  • Hiding less commonly used features behind icons reduced visual clutter.
  • Utilizing color palette for color-blind team members (using 'Stark' Sketch and 'Spectrum' Chrome plugin)
  • Comparison between two points must be side to side for better comparison than radial form. 
  • Greying out poor values. Black or white can be confused as loading problem.
  • Break down multi-step process into fewer easier tasks.
 

Problem

The current systems that Spacecraft System Engineers is time consuming, decentralized, and hard to communicateA quote from our SSE:

Currently our method of evaluating our heading choices is to open all of the plots, on different computers or windows, and to examine each one, moving them around the screen to compare next to each other. Sometimes we will even print out some of the plots and hold layered paper up to the light to compare them together.

Ideation

 2D sketches of various representations for telemetry data.

2D sketches of various representations for telemetry data.

 Unity / 3D mockup of Augmented Reality application.

Unity / 3D mockup of Augmented Reality application.

 

Various Methods of Encoding

 

Prototyping and Research

We created a series of value flow charts and maps to understand the network of how Opportunity's data and information is distributed amongst multiple teams. Moreover, our process included rapid code- and paper- prototyping to consistently get feedback from our users, developing use cases, and observing their work environment.  

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ACM SIG CHI Publication Video

ACM CHI 2018"Towards Design Principles for Visual Analytics for Operations Contexts" 
Publisher ACM. Presented at Montreal, Canada. Download here: https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=3173712