Automatic Recognition of Landforms on Mars Using Terrain Segmentation and Classification

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Mars probes send back to Earth enormous amount of data. Automating the analysis of this data and its interpretation represents a challenging test of significant benefit to the domain of planetary science. In this study, we propose combining terrain segmentation and classification to interpret Martian topography data and to identify constituent landforms of the Martian landscape. Our approach uses unsupervised segmentation to divide a landscape into a number of spatially extended but topographically homogeneous objects. Each object is assigned a 12 dimensional feature vector consisting of terrain attributes and neighborhood properties. The objects are classified, based on their feature vectors, into predetermined landform classes. We have applied our technique to the Tisia Valles test site on Mars. Support Vector Machines produced the most accurate results (84.6% mean accuracy) in the classification of topographic objects. An immediate application of our algorithm lies in the automatic detection and characterization of craters on Mars.