SATURDAY, 21 JUNE 1997, THE ATACAMA DESERT (Llano de la Paciencia)

Nomad has entered some terrain that is very difficult to reach by truck. Even our four-wheel drive "camionetas" could not follow it over a steep wall into a ravine. That makes life interesting for us, as we sometimes walk out toward the vehicle. Of course, when heading out there one tries not to disturb the view of the 360 degree camera. As team member Hans Thomas put it, working out in the field with Nomad (while trying to avoid being seen) feels like the futuristic scene in Terminator where people are hiding from the robots while living in desolate areas.

One of the highlights of today was the incredible job of remote driving done by Dan Christian of NASA Ames. Nomad was located at the top edge of a very steep drop that continued for at least a kilometer. There were only a few possible ways for it to go down into the lower level, yet Dan managed to find one. It was especially tricky because there was very little clearance on either side, the pass down was very serpentine, and the Mars-like red soil was quite loose. He had only one way to go, and he managed to find it and navigate through it with great precision.

We have started to attract tourists. We had a couple families drive out in a jeep to see Nomad. Unfortunately for them, Nomad was already several kilometers south of us, so I don't think they got to see it. I did point them south, but if our trucks couldn't make the direct route, I doubt the driver and his 3 kids would have made it in their jeep. We do not want anyone to get close to Nomad, but we are grateful to the people of this region for the opportunity to perform our Trek in such an incredible setting, and we want them to know their support is appreciated.

Part of our setup down here involves placing a relay station on a nearby hilltop. The allows us to relay imagery and telemetry from Nomad down to our operations truck and satellite dish (it would be rather difficult to carry the satellite equipment directly up to hilltops that our trucks cannot reach). I was stationed at the hilltop today, and enjoyed some incredible views. Being on the hilltop means being higher than all of the immediate landscape, and it's an incredible feeling to look out at the desert and Andes mountains in the distance. When you lie down, all you can see is sky; absolutely nothing on the horizon. The view at 0730 was especially good, as the Moon was still plainly visible against the deep blue sky just barely touched by the rising Sun. And the views of Nomad driving across the desert, sunlight glinting off the the metal wheels, are quite moving. .

Last Modified on: Wed Jun 25, 1997