Public driving has begun! We had a successful day of driving from both the Carnegie Science Center in Pennsylvania and the NASA Ames Research Center in California. We were also greeted here in Chile by lots of local and international press.
It was pretty amusing out here, watching all the photographers scurry about the vehicle. And I'm told that the folks back in Pittsburgh weren't quite sure what to make of all the people walking around, staring in, and lying down in front of Nomad. It's tough to drive when you're afraid of crushing a photographer, or worse, an expensive camera.
Nomad was driven through several interesting areas. It started the day a few hundred meters north of the hilltop relay station, and drove around through gullies, in and out of visibility. Our automatically-pointed antenna functioned admirably, staying focused on the hilltop and maintaining the connection even when the direct path was blocked by the terrain. We did experience signal loss a couple of times, but each time was due to a human miscommunication during remote alignment: "Is the antenna facing north?" "Yes, Nomad's facing north." Whoops.
We are still working a few kinks out of the whole system. We've experienced several restarts of the low-level real time system that controls Nomad and listens to its sensors, and the internal navigation system is still being fine-tuned for this terrain. But the satellite link is up, remote imagery is being displayed, and Nomad has survived the first kilometers of its long Trek.
It had been a beautiful day at the start. It was warm enough that only a sweater was required, and some light breezes blew the dust just enough to make it interesting. But the wind really kicked up from 1700 to 1830, so much so that we had to move vehicles around to protect the satellite equipment. Fortunately, it died down in time for a Chilean TV crew to set up and broadcast live at 2130. The reporters seem to have an inate sense for good weather; they're never around during the 50-plus miles per hour dust storms that have occurred almost daily.
I look forward to providing summaries of distance travelled,
starting in the near future. We're still trying to streamline our
logging procedures, so please bear with us as we process the raw data.
However, we can confirm now that in spite of the many human and
terrain obstacles, Nomad was driven for several hours by people viewing
panospheric imagery using remote control from locations thousands of
miles (and a satellite hop) away.
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Last Modified on: Wed Jun 25, 1997