We’re excited to be a part of the new wave of commercial lunar exploration with our novel science-enhancing AI technology payload: ASAS-CRATERS (Autonomous Soil Assessment System: Contextualizing Rocks, Anomalies and Terrains in Exploratory Robotic Science).

As privately-operated robots start exploring the lunar surface, autonomous capabilities will be increasingly important to provide value in low-cost and short-duration missions. ASAS-CRATERS consists of cutting-edge AI algorithms in terrain classification, novelty detection, and data aggregation, and will advance a planetary rover’s capability to autonomously assess its surroundings for scientific value. It is designed to be a multi-mission system that can support a wide range of scientific payloads and reduce the operational workload of scientists, enabling them to operate their missions more efficiently.

This project leverages previous CSA-funded space technology developments we have made in robotic exploration and artificial intelligence (AI). We have learned a lot about how we can make planetary rovers safer and more efficient drivers – now we’re going to take that technology and make rovers smarter scientists.

Do you think ASAS-CRATERS can help your science payload or mission? Do you have other ideas on how our technology can support your work? We’d love to hear from you so contact us today!

The Team

ASAS-CRATERS is being developed in collaboration with a fully Canadian team of experts in topics ranging from planetary science to robotics and embedded systems for spaceflight. The Science team includes Dr. Gordon Osinski who is Director of Research at Western University’s Institute of Earth and Space Exploration (IESE) and Dr. Ed Cloutis who is Director at University of Winnipeg’s Centre for Terrestrial and Planetary Exploration (C-TAPE). The science team is also supported by Dr. Ryan Ewing of Texas A&M University who was a Surface Properties Scientist for NASA’s MSL rover.

The technology will be developed in conjunction with Xiphos Systems Corporation, a Canadian SME that boasts four generations of products flying in space for over 17 years. MDA, the world leader in space robotics, will support the project by providing radiation analysis of the Xiphos hardware for the lunar environment. Technology development will also be supported by Dr. Ken McIsaac at Western’s IESE and Dr. Krzysztof Skonieczny at Concordia University. In total, 10+ students at Mission Control and partnering universities will be engaged in this project.

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Bringing the Moon to Earth

A Guest Blog by Braden Stefanuk

Braden is an MASc student at Concordia University and is working with Mission Control as a Robotics and Machine Learning Specialist. In the Fall of 2020, Braden helped us develop our indoor lunar analogue testbed and our AI technologies as part of the ASAS-CRATERS project. Read about his experience below.

In the early days of my collaboration with Mission Control we held bi-weekly conversations about research directions that could serve to benefit both my research lab and their company. During these first several months, I found the team at Mission Control to be dedicated, passionate, and unafraid to have some fun in the process. When they began to conduct preliminary research into one of their newest software technologies (ASAS-CRATERS), I was immediately compelled to join the project. Though my relationship with Mission Control began in a purely academic form, it has since evolved into a strong, enduring collaboration.

Before being brought fully on-board as a research and development intern, I had a number of preconceptions about Mission Control and what the opportunity had in store for me. For example, I knew that they were an up-and-coming company, I knew of their legendary field expeditions to Iceland and White Sands, and I knew that they had a great reputation for quality and professionalism within the space industry. Even with these highly held preconceptions, my internship turned out to be a much more diverse and interesting experience than I had expected.

Throughout my internship my days were filled with a fascinating mixture of 3D modeling, software development, research on lunar geologic processes, technical documentation, and conversations with space experts all around the globe. I held discussions with roboticists from the Canadian Space Agency and other space companies, and lunar scientists from universities across Canada. During this time I also presented at the i-SAIRAS 2020 conference, gaining invaluable insight into possible directions for future work, and learning much about myself, especially how I perform under pressure.

Braden collecting images from a micro-rover’s perspective to build a high-volume dataset for training and benchmarking our ASAS-CRATERS deep learning models.

Despite my multi-faceted role at Mission Control, my internship work culminated in the construction of an indoor lunar analogue terrain at their Ottawa headquarters. Originally, this terrain served as a platform where I collected high-fidelity visual data to aid in the creation of new machine learning algorithms. Now, in conjunction with the education and outreach team, individuals around the world will have access to Mission Control’s indoor terrain to help train future rover operators, developing a hands-on understanding of mission-level constraints that may be faced in actual lunar exploration.

Beyond the experience that I gained at Mission Control, the best part of interning with them was the positive, future-focused work environment. From the executives to the interns, the whole team works closely and cooperatively. I found that—even as an intern—I was accepted as a valuable part of the team, and that my opinions were not only heard, but respected.


Braden is an MASc student at Concordia University and is working with Mission Control as a Robotics and Machine Learning Specialist. Before joining the team he was the payload and remote sensing lead for Space Concordia’s CubeSat. He received an Honours BSc in Physics from the University of Calgary and is an avid outdoorsman, sports enthusiast, and hobbyist musician.

Connect with Braden on LinkedIn to say hi!


Announcement: Mission Control Intelligence

Mission Control is excited to announce Mission Control Intelligence (MCI): a joint project with Axiom Research Labs to demonstrate AI-powered autonomy on a micro-rover ahead of commercial missions to the Moon. Read more about it here and our press release!


ASAS-CRATERS Announcement!

Mission Control is excited to announce a contract awarded by the Canadian Space Agency for the development of a novel payload to advance lunar scientific exploration. Read more about our amazing partners and collaborators in our press release!


Canada Reaches for the Moon!

The Canadian Space Agency awarded 7 contracts worth a total of $4.36 million to 5 companies and one university to advance concepts for nano- and micro-rovers, and autonomous science instruments – part of LEAP (Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program). These advancements will serve as the first steps towards landing and conducting Canadian science on the surface of the Moon! Mission Control is excited to be among those announced: