Sunday, May 9, 2010

Byron Glacier Recap

Now that we are all back in Atlanta, and have had a little rest, I thought I would post a recap of the field trials. Since the sun comes up so early in Anchorage, we set out about 6:00am Wednesday morning and arrived at Byron Glacier trial by 7:30am. While Anchorage is completely devoid of snow, the trail head showed signs of several feet of snow still present. Cold weather gear and snow shoes were required to walk around. The glacier starts about a mile into the trial, which took 45 minutes or longer to walk, encumbered as we were with test equipment, supplies, and a robot.

Once we encountered a likely looking test site, we setup a simple base camp and started bringing the SnoMote online. The major goal of this expedition was to test the remote communication system between the rover and the external science server in Atlanta. Secondary goals included using the rover to perform a local elevation survey, and testing the accuracy of the mapping system. At the base camp location, we performed several variations of both these tests. After three hours of successful testing, we explored further up the glacier path. The melt water from the glacier formed a small stream, and we decided to perform a second round of tests in that area.

During previous seasons of testing, we chartered a helicopter to drop us off at the test site. This was the first over-land trail. Unfortunately, the stress of being transported long distances by hand, and not particularly gently either, led to a failure of one of the front steering linkages. Fortuitously, this actually occurred at the very end of the second round of testing, and did not impact any of the data collection goals. It does mean more work for Monday though, as I fix the broken ski and find a way to improve upon the current design for future missions.

I have posted another short slideshow of highlights from the Byron Glacier trials. You can see our intrepid band of scientists with all our equipment, as well as the SnoMote tackling some icy terrain. Check it out on the right-hand panel.


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