(Pampa Elvira Region)

The terrain keeps getting more and more interesting. Our remote drivers at the Science Center, and especially at NASA Ames, are getting more familiar with the rugged terrain here in the Atacama. Our field team commented that the Ames crew did especially well in working their way out of a ravine, and the CSC folks did well negotiating a cliffside area. That bodes well, because it means the imagery and telemetry (status reports) from the robot are good enough to enable remote drivers to work their way out of some potentially dangerous situations.

We've reached a special milestone in this trip: Nomad has crossed the halfway point for the first segment of the Trek. Because of the high communications performance needed to transmit the special imagery, we are setting up a relay station on a new hilltop every 5-10 kilometers (3-6 miles). By passing the halfway mark today, we've shown that we can talk with Nomad at all distances along each leg. Throughout the next six weeks, the field team (that's us) will be transporting the relay station to a new hilltop every week or so.

Two of our team members were away for the day, travelling to Antofagasta to pick up supplies, do laundry (whew! :-), and greet a new team member; graduate student Liam Pedersen will be joining us for a few weeks to try out some meteorite detection equipment. NASA has asked CMU to develop a robotic system that could explore the Antarctic looking for meteorites, and Liam will be demonstrating some of those sensors here in the Atacama.

We are learning to streamline our operations now. Although we have seven people in the field, it's common for one or two people to be working offsite during the day, and that makes for some logistical problems. There are many tasks that need to be performed each day; with runs for hot food and fuel, checking on the relay station, watching the robot, communicating with folks back in the States, monitoring the status of the communications links, and doing more engineering work, there's plenty of work for everyone.

We have been visited by a videojouralist for the past two days. He stayed onsite after the original press conference to film Nomad and learn about its navigation system. So we apologize to our Science Center viewers who might have been surprised by the extra visitors in this "lifeless" desert.

Back to Home Page
Last Modified on: Wed Jun 25, 1997