Nomad continues to travel long distances here in the Atacama. Today we covered 7.5 kilometers (854 meters autonomous) without really trying, by which I mean we have started focusing on other objectives, yet still managed to keep moving during much of the day.
I am greatly enjoying this new mode of operation. Since we no longer have to strive toward the goal of distance, we can make changes to accomodate other work. For example, today we turned down the rate at which panospheric images are sent from Nomad to the satellite, to make some bandwidth available for navigation code debugging. I managed to characterize and eliminate several bugs relatively quickly, since I was able to view lots graphical debugging information in real time. Nomad's ability to have its systems tuned like this makes it possible to accomplish several tasks at once. John Murphy and the other Science Center folks did not even mind the lower bandwidth, though they did enjoy commenting on how things had changed. At the start of the summer, the nav system did not have waypoint driving, so it sometimes drove around in circles. Today I was testing some steering angle code so I asked them to keep the wheels at a particular angle. They commented, "This is quite a change for us; turning circles for nav intead of nav driving circles for us."
We got to see a special treat today. The nearby volcano is "erupting" (okay, really just venting), spewing out white clouds that are covering the northern part of the Salar. It is quite impressive, as there are no clouds whatsoever to the south, but there is a fine mist throughout the view to the north. Some of our crew decided to check it out up close, and left today to go hiking.