(Llano de la Paciencia)

Today Nomad must have had all of its "stealth" features in full operation; it took us nearly an hour to find it in the morning. We typically know where Nomad stops, and always have d-GPS information available to pinpoint its location. However, we do not always remember to use that information. This morning the refueling team today ended up driving around and around for nearly an hour before coming across it. At night it was the same story; no luck finding it where we expected, but by following extant 4-wheel drive truck tracks we managed to run across the familar sight of Nomad's treads ("wobot twacks!"). It is not an easy task trying to find the robot in the desert. It seemed at one point like our 4-wheel truck was at a 30-40 degree roll on the side of a ravine; "Have you ever rolled over in a truck?" were the ominous words of our to-remain-anonymous driver. Fortunately, he managed to get us down the slope without further mishaps.

The saga of the 3-wheel drive testing continues. It can be amusing to watch the remote drivers' performance with the vehicle in a degraded performance mode. Drivers at NASA Ames (including a certain anonymous CMU Robotics graduate student) ended up driving Nomad around in a ditch for one and a half hours, covering 662 meters, without ever managing to get out. Actually, they did manage to *back* out of the ditch without realizing it; because according to field observer Michael Parris, they backed out of it, then backed right into it again. It was finally a driver at the Carnegie Science Center who, after viewing the situation through the panospheric camera for a few minutes, managed to drive fairly quickly out of it.

The wind continues to inspire us. Down at the operations truck, the wind managed to pick up one of our tents completely and start it blowing across the desert. Fortunately we had some visitors, representatives of the San Pedro police department who had dropped by to see Nomad, and they noticed and stopped it right away. Life was even more interesting on the hilltop station. There the laptop computer used by the person at the hilltop was blown off of its base twice during the afternoon gusts. And our hilltopper of the day Jim Teza noted, when asked about the meal that had been delivered to him, "How was lunch? I had it a las Atacama. Take meat and salad, sprinkle liberally with dirt." Nothing quite like it.

Finally, the safeguarding system was being worked on, and thus was only available during parts of the day. But it managed to give CSC drivers 218 meters of safeguarded driving (including a couple times when they tried to steer it up a hill, but it smoothly steered itself away), and 144 meters of autonomy while testing a new module that will enhance Nomad's capabilities, allowing it to not only steer around obstacles, but also toward a "waypoint", or area of interest in the world.

We look forward tomorrow to the return of several members of our team.

Last Modified on: Wed Jul 9, 1997