Nomad had a relatively easy time today, driving on mostly flat ground. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for our 4-wheel drive trucks. Normally that would be fine, but in this case one of our gas cans was not tied securely, which we didn't realize until we stopped driving. Thus we unwittingly created yet another treasure waiting to be found in the Atacama.
Today we welcomed back our Real Time computing expert Mark Sibenac. He had been to see a doctor in Antofagasta because he'd felt ill, but seems to be doing better now. His main immediate problem is that his new diet prevents him from drinking as much leche condensada (condensed milk) as he used to with nearly every meal.
Although the desert is vast, and we hardly ever pass anyone on the road even during the 40 minute drive back to camp (25 minutes if certain people are driving), today a pair of geologists stumbled across Nomad while working in the field. One was Chilean and the other was from the US, and they spoke with our field people for some time. They had heard about Nomad in the news, and also knew about NASA's Sojourner robot, which is due to land on Mars in two days. At least one of them has a keen interest in remote exploration, and really appreciated the idea of Nomad being controlled from very far away. He looks forward to checking out our Internet sites when he gets back from the Atacama; for most folks it probably works the other way around.
We are making further progress with the autonomous driving. A recent extension to Nomad enables it to not just avoid obstacles, but also proceed toward a specific goal point. Today we demonstrated that improved mode of autonomy for 273 meters, with an additional 52 meters of safeguarding. He hope to overcome the integration difficulties that make it difficult to use safeguarding fulltime in the next few days. Our real-time expert also promises to deliver an improved logging system that will enable us to give rough but reasonably accurate distance measurements at the end of each day.