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Field Report

April 27, 2003
Salar Grande, Atacama Desert, Chile

- Terrain model high-resolution data collection.
- Soil mobility and locomotion power experiments.
- Return Hyperion from the field, tear down, and pack.

Status and Progress
- Finished experiments. We came to the Atacama this field season to
gain information and experience. We will now begin research and
development of a comprehensive robotic system that will seek life in
desert environments. To enable that process we needed understand the
requirements and make basic measurements for system design. We have
been working from an experimental plan in which we intended to test
components and subsystems and to collect data in the relevant
environment. Our experiments covered twelve areas:

1. Measure Environmental Properties
2. Characterize Insolation
3. Study Locomotion Power
4. Study Natural Terrain
5. Study Localization
6. Study Sun Tracking
7. Validate SPI
8. Test VIS/NIR Spectometer
9. Test Fluorescence Microscopy
10. Test Fluorescence Imaging
11. Test Communication Reliablity
12. Test Integrated Rover Operations

Remarkably we have been able to complete all of the experiments. We
have made measurements of the environment including temperature and
wind in the coastal range. We also now understand the humidity and the
significance of the salt fogs that can occur. Our study of insolation
includes total insolation and spectrophotometric measurements as well
as several weeks of Silicon and GaAs solar cell performance. During
its operation Hyperion drove 20989m and all of the telemetry has been
logged for analysis of locomotion mobility and power performance. We
collected data for use in localization algorithm development including
panoramic imagery, side-view imagery, inertial measurements and sun
sensor imagery. We tested prototype of several instruments onboard
Hyperion including the stereo panoramic imager (SPI) and fluorescence
imager and manually deployed the fluorescence microscope and VIS/NIR
spectrometer all to understand their performance and limitations in
this environment. We conducted 5 days of remote science investigation
with scientists at NASA Ames uploading daily commands to Hyperion and
downloading the resulting traverse and instrument data each night. In
total the remote scientists collected 28 complete data sets. We
conducted tests of range and bandwidth using 2.4GHz, 900MHz, and VHF
wireless links in order to configure a system for long-range operation.
Finally, we conducted tests of autonomous rover operation and the
performance of all of the software components in order to verify the
current capability and determine specific areas for continued research
and experimentation. Approximately 18km of traverse was achieved
autonomously with the Mission Planner working from a digital elevation
model to identify a time/energy minimizing route and the Mission
Executive, Health Monitor, Navigator and Controller acting to drive
Hyperion through terrain. In this manner Hyperion was frequently able
to traverse over 500m before detecting any fault condition (most
typically motor amplifiers current limiting) and in one instance travel
autonomously over 1km on a single command from operators to the Mission
- Recorded Terrain Model. In our final experiment on terrain modeling
we "mowed the lawn" taking multiple passes over an area to record
stereo images and laser range measurements of the terrain. This data
will be used to create a high fidelity model of this area for use in
Navigator development.
- Conducted Mobility Experiments. Although Hyperion has experienced
just about every relevant terrain we set up several specific slope and
obstacle climbing experiments to get more data on traction and
performance in soft soils.
- Crated Hyperion. Hyperion spent 10 days out in the field surviving
nights with heavy dew and winds over 40kph. Tonight it is in a crate,
ready for shipment back to Pittsburgh.

- Pack and run away.

Morning: Cloudy, beautiful sunrise
Afternoon: Clear
Evening: High clouds

Vulture Count: N/A (No time to look up.)

Quote of the Day
" This goes against everything my mother taught me."


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