It's just Milestones'R'Us down here in the desert. Today Nomad was driven for 24.22 kilometers! That includes 8.65 kilometers of daylight remote driving from the Carnegie Science Center, plus 15.57 kilometers of nighttime patterned search. This goes a long way toward meeting our goal of 200 kilometers of remote or autonomous driving, especially if we can keep it up for a few more days. It is quite a challenge to keep operations going for 24 hours a day, but we have seen today that it is possible. For purposes of logging, "days" will run from 0700 hours to 0700 hours.
We also welcomed new team member Ben Shamah to the desert today. Ben is a graduate student in Robotics at Carnegie Mellon, is part of the mechanical team, and personally machined many of the mechnical parts on Nomad. He joins us to test Nomad's locomotion system, so we can gain a better understanding of its abilities and limitations on this terrain. Ben will be with us through the end of the Trek on 31 July.
The terrain here really gives our trucks a beating. Although they are designed for off-road action, the many streambeds, sharp dropoffs, large rocks, and "washboard" roads are taking their toll. On the way back to our living containers one of the trucks lost a fan belt or two (the air conditioner belt might have been scavenged earlier), and its engine rapidly overheated. We made it to the sleeping containers, but were unable to return to Nomad this evening. We'll hitch a ride tomorrow with another truck heading out that way.
It has been an interesting experience noticing which aspects of US culture have pervaded most strongly here in Chile. Aside from the familiar soda and gasoline brands, there are other unexpected familiarities. The cooks have nicknamed our real time expert "Snupy", and every morning our current Chilean infantry guard greets us with an excerpt from the Warner Brothers' singing frog cartoon; "Hello, my baby, Hello my honey, Hello my ragtime gal"...