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Descent image motion estimation system is the first machine-vision system for estimating lander velocity during planetary descent. Composed of sensors and software, DIMES features a descent imager, a radar altimeter, an inertial-measurement unit, and an algorithm for combining sensor measurements to estimate horizontal velocity - the speed across the planet's surface the lander travels as it descends. Although the sensors are not novel technology, the algorithm and flight software that combines them are new. This algorithm combines radar, image, and inertial data in a novel way to create a low-cost, robust, and computationally efficient solution to the horizontal-velocity-estimation problem. This article describes the DIMES algorithm, its testing, and its performance during both Mars exploration rover landings.
Date of Publication: May-Jun 2004