Congratulations to NASA for successfully landing the first mobile robot on the surface of another world! JPL's Sojourner robot has landed on Mars as part of the Pathfinder program, and will explore the area around its landing site over the next few days. With its light-striping sensor technology and planning software, Sojourner is the first intelligent mobile robot to be deployed on another planetary body. Meanwhile, back here on Earth, another intelligent mobile robot continues its traverse across the Atacama Desert.
Although it was a national holiday in the US, there was no break in the action in the Atacama Desert. Today we continued to test Nomad's autonomous and safeguarded teleoperation modes. Unfortunately there were some problems with the display of the large panospheric images during the first half of the day, and local communications problems made it difficult to coordinate activities at first. So we were not able to accumulate much distance after all, but we did achieve 230 meters of autonomous driving and 1212 meters of safeguarded teleoperation (where a person tries to drive Nomad, but Nomad has the final say on which direction is safe).
And as Nomad continues its Trek, so must we members of the field team move across the desert. At the end of operations today we picked up everything from our base camp and moved about 15 kilometers south. Nomad had ended the day about 10 kilometers south of the hilltop station, and to maintain communications as it continues its journey we must relocate our hilltop relay station every 10 kilometers or so. It is quite an undertaking to transport not only tents and trucks, but also our operations truck and satellite dishes. Still, we managed to pack everything up and get to the new site in under five hours. We look forward to a new view of the desert (and to setting up all of our equipment again) early tomorrow, but for tonight it's off to San Pedro for dinner.
We actually had some good help with our move. In addition to the work done by Entel Chile to move their backup satellite phone, members of the Chilean infantry drove their flatbed truck (which supports our operations box), and the families of two team members came to visit and were put to work; for instance, Alex Foessel's family helped us relocate and setup our tents.