Today was the final day in the desert for team member Liam Pedersen, a graduate student in Robotics from Carnegie Mellon University. Liam had been on hand for two weeks to test various sensors for detecting meteorites with Nomad. Armed with magnetometers and metal dectectors, Liam supervized Nomad's search trials. Unfortunately the results from tests in late June were not as reliable as we had anticipated, so today we redid some of those experiments. Once again, it will take some time before the data are completely processed, but the results seem promising; often we were able to detect the meteorites that had been planted in Nomad's path quite effectively.
Another aspect of the meteorite search protocol is the ability to cover terrain completely and effectively using a robot. Thus much time was spent today debugging and demonstrating that Nomad could be both remotely controlled and sent through a series of manuevers that would effectively cover an entire search area. More work remains to be done, but this "patterned search" mode was demonstrated both with direct steering commands, and commands that were sent through the safeguarding system. In fact, Nomad managed to perform safeguarded pattern search tasks for 1040 meters (including some interruptions).
We managed to break the 6 kilometer barrier today! In all, Nomad was commanded through 6074 meters of terrain, 1040 meters of which was performed with safeguarding on. The last 2 kilometers or so were generated by the patterned search code running in nice flat terrain in the dark; so while that travel occurred without pretty pictures, it was most definitely driven from the Carnegie Science Center in the US by team members John Murphy and Lalit Katragadda.
Finally, those of us in the field may live in seemingly Victorian times (taking showers once a week whether we need them or not), but tonight we made it back to camp early enough that everyone got to take a shower and eat a hot meal while seated at a table. It's the little things that make working in Robotics so fulfulling...