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October 16, 2004
Guanaco Camp, Atacama Desert, Chile

Agenda
Host public event for Zoe
Continue autonomous traverse
Attempt higher speed locomotion

Status and Progress
Hosted visitors in the field. We had an event for the invited guests of our Chilean co-investigators and were surprised and impressed that almost 100 people made the 200km trip from Antofagasta to see Zoe.

We answered many excellent questions about Zoe, its instruments, its purpose, and its adventures. And as well, why we are here in the Atacama, an extreme environment for finding life and an appropriate planetary analog because of aridity, ultraviolet radiation, soil composition, and terrain.

We started the Zo driving autonomously and everyone had fun standing in front of it to see if it would avoid them, which it did, of course!

After a look under the hood, and questions about next year, the caravan headed out to see some geologic sites in the desert. Thanks to everyone who visited!

Traversed autonomously. After the crowds had left we continued tests in autonomous navigation. Zoe crossed a drainage several kilometers wide with many dry washes. This coupled with several mining exploration roads with graded berms meant long continuous obstacles and a real test of Zos persistence in reaching its goals. In one instance the map to odometric distance was 1:2.8 meaning it took 280 meters of driving to reach a goal 100 meters away.

Sped up. We tried a new version of the navigator which increases Zos speed of traverse when it is moving straight ahead and making only small steering corrections. Under these conditions Zo moves at 0.7m/s (about 2.5KPH), a modest speed up over the nominal 0.5m/s speed of autonomous traverse. Zo quite obviously speeds up when the path is straight and clear, and slows down as obstacles are encountered and more steering is needed. There seems to be some tuning remaining so that Zo decelerates well in advance of obstacles, and this current speed of 0.7m/s is on the limit of acceptable for reliable obstacle avoidance.

Upcoming
More autonomous traverse
Continue fault recovery experiments

Weather
Clear, dry, warm 22C, light breeze. Lots of stars.

Quote of the Day
"Now warp speed."

For more information on Life in the Atacama including images, movies, and field reports see: http://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/atacama
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