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Large crowd gathers to see Bridget off

Large crowd gathers to see Bridget off

It is time for Bridget to leave after many long hard days out in the desert. But this last day is the day for celebration and many people from the Paranal Observatory gather to watch Bridget’s last traverse before she needs to go back in the shipping crate.

Paranal staff gathers to see the rover. Even the chef is there!

Paranal staff gathers to see the rover. Even the chef is there!

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Bridget on the field

Bridget on the field

Bridget rover heading out to the starting point of the new day's trials credit: Sev Gunes-Lasnet (RAL Space)

Bridget rover heading out to the starting point of the new day’s trials
credit: Sev Gunes-Lasnet (RAL Space)

Every day Bridget needs to get down from the Beast and take a long traverse to the end of the previous day’s run which is the start of the day’s run. Equipped with all the instruments once again Bridget is heading out. Once in position she will receive the plan from RCC just like the download would happen to a Mars rover and start executing the tasks autonomously.

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!

The Beast is dead, long live the Beast

The Beast is dead, long live the Beast

It is my duty to deliver the sad news that we won’t be getting back The Beast. It also had some battery problems and it will take longer to fix than anticipated. But instead we got a brand new Black Beast, with better off-road tyres and a roll-cage just in case. Long live the Black Beast!

As we received it from the airport in Antofagasta. Wayne, who is 2 meters tall standing next to it, looks kind of average size.

As we received it from the airport in Antofagasta. Wayne, who is 2 meters tall standing next to it, looks kind of average size.

The Beast is down!

The Beast is down!

While the Beast is a rather large truck the tyres were not off-road tyres and already had some use when we got the vehicle. It was supposed to be a short drive down to Antofagsta to get Elie the second member of the main team to arrive, but on the journey one of the tyres on the Beast exploded. Thanks to Sev’s calm and measured response to the situation only the Beast was injured:

On the way down to Antofagasta one of the tyres on the Beast exploded.

On the way down to Antofagasta one of the tyres on the Beast exploded.

The spare tyre got fitted, and in Antofagasta the rental company offered to fit a new set of tyres more suitable for our usage. However this means the Beast will only return to the trials on Monday, until then the team have to use two regular sized trucks.

UAV images flight crew

UAV images flight crew

The interesting bits have been cropped, full images will be published next week.

We cropped away the interesting bits, full images will be published next week.

The UAV took this images from 400 feet height. This is only a part of the aerial image. You can see the road, the flight crew (Sev, Wayne and Aron) and our largest truck “The Beast”. This flight was surveying the opposite side of the road and you can notice a white rectangle, which is a GCP (Ground Control Point) marker, aligned north. 8 GCP markers were distributed at the edges of the site surveyed and geo-referenced using a highly accurate differential GPS. The accuracy of such a GPS is about 10 mm. With such an accurate control points the team can construct a DEM (Digital Elevation Map) which is an exact representation of the terrain both in longitude and latitude and height data as well. Additionally this accurate map will enable to RCC (Remote Control Centre) team to simulate the movements of the rover, and re-play traverses. Similar information would be available to a Mars rover from orbital data and from data of the descent module. Of course no flight crew would be visible on those images…

First glimpse of the Observatory

First glimpse of the Observatory

You can see the VISTA telescope on the right side of the image

Paranal Observatory from the road

Once the road climbs over the costal ridge the Paranal Observatory can be seen for the first time. The hotel and other supporting buildings are still hidden but VISTA telescope is can be seen on the right side of the image.