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The new LCC

Once again useing cars as wind-breaks on each side

Once again useing cars as wind-breaks on each side

The new LCC

Using our local support's Rauls tent which should be able to withstand higher winds

Using our local support’s Rauls tent which should be able to withstand higher winds

After yesterday’s dust devil we have rebuilt the LCC this morning. Special thanks to Raul for providing the new hopefully more wind resistant tent.

Calibrating instruments

Calibrating instruments

from left to right: Rafik, Olivier, Tor, Steve, Andy and Wayne.

from left to right: Rafik, Olivier, Tor, Steve, Andy and Wayne.
credit: Elie Allouis ‎(Astrium)

To calibrate WISDOM a highly reflective surface is put under it (the golden foil) to get the maximum reflection. After the calibration WISDOM can see up to 10 meters underground depending on the soil type.

Pancam on top, WISDOM are the two gold antennas pointing down and clupi is the black camera on the right

Pancam on top, WISDOM are the two gold antennas pointing down and clupi is the black camera on the right
credit: Elie Allouis ‎(Astrium)

Loading up Bridget for day 2

Loading up Bridget for day 2

credit: Elie Allouis ‎(Astrium)

Pancam calibration

Pancam calibration Pancam was deployed on the field yesterday to take panoramas at the starting position prior to Bridgets arrival and to calibrate the cameras. The calibration targets would be mounted on the rover for Mars missions.

Bridget goes to Mars

Bridget goes to Mars

Loading Bridget on a pickup to carry it down to the trial site

Loading Bridget on a pickup to carry it down to the trial site

In the morning Bridget left her comfy shed behind. The pick-up track is not quite as good as the Russian Proton rocket that will carry ExoMars to Mars but it does to job of cutting across the Atacama to the trial site. good luck Bridget!

Andy talks autonomy

Andy talks autonomy

The terrain near the LCC is very Mars-like. The dense boulder fields test the navigation capability of the rover. Andy from Scisys explains what Bridget is doing during these pre-trial tests:

Bridget’s fist run near the LCC

Bridget’s first run near the LCC

Yesterday Bridget spent a day at the LCC, running some navigation and locomotion tests. This was the first time Bridget encountered the dense rocky terrain of the deep Atacama desert.

How fast can a Mars rover go?
The question should really be how fast a Mars rover needs to go. When you are exploring another planet the saying “slow and steady wins the race” is especially true. On Mars rovers need to manage the limited resources they have in terms of power and processing power. During a scenario like SAFER the science team still needs time to make the correct decisions on which way to proceed, scans need to be completed with the cameras, radar and other instruments and the rover needs to navigate safely in unexplored terrain.

Imagine it like you are exploring a newly discovered cave, it is dark, slippery and no-one has been there before. If you want your exploration to be a success you will need to proceed with care at a steady slow place and look around with your light often. Similarly our rover explores slowly and steadily, and uses it’s instrument suit to scan the terrain often.

Have a look at the following video to see how fast a Mars rover moves:

This was a short test near the LCC with navigation but without any of the instruments.

RCC Kick-off

RCC Kick-off

RCC team is assembled in the UK ready for the week of trials

RCC team is assembled in the UK ready for the week of trials

The RCC team is ready to take control of rover operations. They have received aerial images which are representative of Martian orbiter images and the rover position within the aerial image. The RCC team will start looking for science targets and plan paths waiting for the first PanCam and Navcam images to arrive.

It will be a busy week in the Catapult centre at Harwell Oxford in the UK and out in the field near Paranal in Chile.

Update on schedule

The countdown clock has been updated to the new start of the field trials on Tuesday morning (Chilean time). RCC (Remote Control Centre) operations will still begin tomorrow morning (UK time) and people at the RCC will start the planning process but due to the late arrival of some main team members and a slight delay because of the swap of off-road tyres on The Beast. Testing shakedown and setup of the LCC (Local Control Centre) will continue tomorrow, in parallel to RCC operations planning, and the rover will start its first traverse on Tuesday.

More geology surveys

More geology surveys

Today was another whole day out in the field for most of the Advance team. Now that the sites for the trial are selected they were surveyed in more detail. Many similarities between the terrain here in the Atacama and Mars have been seen. But it is not just walking around and taking pictures, sometimes some manual labour is needed:

There will be more drilling and sample recovery tomorrow.

The team has also constructed parts of the LCC (Local Control Centre) or “camp”, where most of the team will be working during the trials. Surprisingly some of the most interesting geological finds have been uncovered during the camp build. We will be able to share the discovery towards the end of the trial, a discovery that shows how life can find a place in a seemingly lifeless desert and which might help us to find the best way to look for life on Mars.