Nomad spent today looking for meteorites. Controlled again by scientists in northern California, Nomad was driven through interesting terrain to test some new sensors for automatic detection of meteorites. These important technologies will enable robotic search for meteorites in the Antarctic.
The data have not yet been completely processed, but it was clear that some sensors worked well. The vision system allowed reasonable driving and precise refinement of surface meteorite locations (once spotted, they zoomed in quickly), the pointed antenna enabled the remote scientists to view the detailed images of the area quickly and effectively, and the magnetometers successfully located some magnetite samples. Our metal detector didn't fare as well, having registered lots of noise. Especially interesting was the fact that the VHF radios we used to communicate interfered substantially with these sensors. But further processing of the data that was collected may yield better results.
We also managed to squeeze in 52 more meters of autonomous driving. This is the mode where Nomad alone decides where it is safe to go. It was rather amusing listening to a person watching the vehicle; "Don't go south, it's dangerous"; "That's why I *want* to go south!" A bit difficult to test the safeguarding system if there are no obstacles about.
There was a special surprise visit by schoolchildren from the nearby community of San Pedro. We had spoken with representatives from the government of this town, so we knew they would be visiting but were not quite sure when. They managed to get a schoolbus out here into the desert, but the kids were disappointed when all they found was some foreigners in a truck; they wanted to see the robot. So we drove the bus as close as possible, then shuttled kids and chaperones to the robot in one of our trucks. This was all much to the consternation of the remote scientists; they were out looking for meteorites, not kids. But the kids were very well behaved, they stayed back once we pointed out the cameras that were being used. In fact, we have a sneaking suspicion that they enjoyed the ride in the 4-wheel truck more than seeing the "robot that didn't move."
We had other visitors as well, but only by phone. The Nomad project has enjoyed support from a large number of organizations, collectively known as the "Friends of Nomad." These organizations have donated equipment, people, or financial support to our project, and we are very grateful for their support. This evening a special event at the Carnegie Science Center was held for them, to give them the "inside story" about how things are going. They got to speak with many members of our away team here, and many challenging questions were asked.
Some final tidbits. We learned that scientists tend to name all the structures they find in images taken by remote probes. It seems our hilltop station was located on the peak of Mount "Cheops." And did you know there's a great opportunity for a new art form in the desert? Our CRT computer monitors tend to get covered with dust (as does everything), and when you run your finger over the surface, the static electricity causes little explosions that make overlapping circles across your path.
Tomorrow is the final day of remote science operations from NASA Ames. We will be testing some time-delayed Mars operations, both with and without the panospheric camera.