Today was a difficult day for us, in several ways. We experienced several mechanical problems, one team member is still sick, and today was team member Hans Thomas' last day with us here in the Atacama.
Having Hans with us on loan from NASA Ames has been a tremendous benefit. Hans helped with the implementation of several modules in the Real Time computer, diagnosed and debugged satellite and network problems, helped with mechanical assembly, taught the city folks among us how to live in the great outdoors, and as the lone strict vegetarian in the group served as comic relief for the local miners. To celebrate his final night here, we finally let him out of the camp for his first true vegetarian meal at a restaurant in nearby San Pedro. We know it was a good time because the evening ended with a visit from the local police department (purely a social call).
We had several interesting mechanical problems today. The right front wheel started behaving strangely, shaking a bit as the rover moved. It turned out that the motor had come loose from its mounting again. This created just the right opportunity to test Nomad's abilities in a 3-wheel drive mode. Also, at one point a combination of communications dropout, inactive safeguarding system, and keeping our distance from the robot resulted in a nasty impact with a solid wall. This impact bent a mechanical averaging bar in the middle of the robot, but we were able to restore Nomad to completely functional status in just over an hour. Still, to ensure that these systems would endure such abuse, some team members will depart for Antofagasta to have reinforcements made.
In other news, today we covered an additional 504 meters using autonomous driving, and unfortunately our one team member is still feeling ill. He will be driven back to Antofagasta (city with a quarter million inhabitants) early tomorrow to see a doctor.