Nomad Rover Field Experiment, Atacama Desert, Chile: 1. Science results overview

Authors

  • N. A. Cabrol,

  • G. Chong-Diaz,

  • C. R. Stoker,

  • V. C. Gulick,

  • R. Landheim,

  • P. Lee,

  • T. L. Roush,

  • A. P. Zent,

  • C. Herrera Lameli,

  • A. Jensen Iglesia,

  • M. Pereira Arrerondo,

  • J. M. Dohm,

  • R. Keaten,

  • D. Wettergreen,

  • M. H. Sims,

  • K. Schwher,

  • M. G. Bualat,

  • H. J. Thomas,

  • E. Zbinden,

  • D. Christian,

  • L. Pedersen,

  • A. Bettis III,

  • G. Thomas,

  • B. Witzke


Abstract

Nomad was deployed for a 45 day traverse in the Atacama Desert, Chile, during the summer of 1997. During this traverse, 1 week was devoted to science experiments. The goal of the science experiments was to test different planetary surface exploration strategies that included (1) a Mars mission simulation, (2) a science on the fly experiment, where the rover was kept moving 75% of the operation time. (The goal of this operation was to determine whether or not successful interpretation of the environment is related to the time spent on a target. The role of mobility in helping the interpretation was also assessed.) (3) a meteorite search using visual and instrumental methods to remotely identify meteorites in extreme environments, and (4) a time-delay experiment with and without using the panospheric camera. The results were as follow: the remote science team positively identified the main characteristics of the test site geological environment. The science on the fly experiment showed that the selection of appropriate targets might be even more critical than the time spent on a study area to reconstruct the history of a site. During the same operation the science team members identified and sampled a rock from a Jurassic outcrop that they proposed to be a fossil. The presence of paleolife indicators in this rock was confirmed later by laboratory analysis. Both visual and instrumental modes demonstrated the feasibility, in at least some conditions, of carrying out a field search for meteorites by using remote-controlled vehicles. Finally, metrics collected from the observation of the science team operations, and the use team members made of mission data, provided critical information on what operation sequences could be automated on board rovers in future planetary surface explorations.

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