The European Space Agency has a program called PANGAEA which is aimed at developing geology training programs for astronauts. As a part of this program a new technology was recently deployed and tested in Spain’s extensive La Cueva de Los Verdes lava tube. It’s actually a pair of technologies called the “Pegasus Backpack” and the “Leica BLK360."
The Pegasus Backpack is a wearable “3D mapper”. This is something that could be used to map out street views similar to the Google Street View. What makes it so cool though is that the backpack doesn’t require a satellite connection, enabling it for use inside places with poor connectivity.
The Leica BLK360 is a LIDAR camera (Laser Imaging, Detection and Ranging). What LIDAR does is it shoots out a beam of laser light and thanks to the speed of light, is able to get an extremely accurate measurement of the distance from the camera the laser beam hit something and bounced back to the LIDAR camera. The camera detects this bounce back and does it again many more times, putting together a scan of the surrounding space: essentially an image of the room you’re in (or for many spacecraft, of the topographic features of the planetary surface below it).
When combined, as researchers with PANGAEA did, they were able to go deep inside the La Cueva de Los Verdes lava tube, away from both satellite connections and light, and create a detailed, 3D map of the entire lava tube.
Here is a fly through ...