Mars On Earth: Testing Rovers on This Planet

mars on earth

Today NASA is holding the Participatory Exploration Summit. It’s a day long event where they brought in a mix of NASA employees, partners, and potential collaborators (I’m in that last category). We just heard about the Mars on Earth project. As they describe themselves on their site:

The Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) is an international interdisciplinary field research project centered on the scientific study of the Haughton impact structure and surrounding terrain, Devon Island, High Arctic, viewed as a terrestrial analog for Mars. The rocky polar desert setting, geologic features and biological attributes of the site offer unique insights into the possible evolution of Mars – in particular the history of water and of past climates on Mars -, the effects of impacts on Earth and on other planets, and the possibilities and limits of life in extreme environments. In parallel with its Science program, the HMP supports an Exploration program aimed at developing new technologies, strategies, humans factors experience, and field-based operational know-how key to planning the future exploration of the Moon, Mars and other planets by robots and humans.

They are going to send two K10 rovers to Haughton Crater on Devon Island in the Canadian Arctic. One of the rovers will be outiftted with a LIDAR system that is capable of gathering data to build a high-res 3D virtual model of the crater. The other rover will have a RADAR system for detecting permafrost. This information was originally released on June 18th. To kick-off the presentation they actually had one of the Rovers come into the room.

NASA K10 rover

The rover is normally self-guided, but in the crowded conference room it was steered by someone. It was a sturdy looking beast with a surprising number of exposed parts. Bill Nye the Science Guy asked why there were wires outside the body and was told that the crater is very cold, but that there isn’t much precipitation for them to defend the electronics against. (FYI, Bill Nye has a cool site with lots of science education materials, but warning it uses lots of Flash.) We also learned that you shouldn’t anthropomorphize the rovers, they hate that.

You can follow the HMP project’s progress via their blog (check out the research facility). The rovers will have a networked KML file that will allow you to follow their adventures in Google Earth.

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