|Student Navigators Drive Mars Rover Testbed
Intense discussion, various viewpoints, chairs being scooted around,
slightly raised voices, and eventual consensus: just a typical meeting of
scientists in the lab; in this case a rover lab at NASA's Jet
Intense discussion is part of planning for any scientific mission.
The difference, though, was that this group was composed of students
from four countries around the world who were planning simulated
scientific tasks for exploring the surface of Mars. One of the targets they
chose for analysis was a rock that they nicknamed "Pebbles."
Only this rock isn't on the red planet; it is located in the JPL Mars Yard, an
outdoor test facility that approximates Mars terrain located away from the
rover lab. And after the mission, the students were able to visit
"Mars" and actually see the rover used to conduct the
exercise and "Mars rocks".
Student navigators selected by The Planetary Society as part of their
Red Rover Goes to Mars program recently visited JPL to participate in a
simulated mission operations exercise. They were able to experience the
drama and excitement of a mission to Mars "up close and
personal," as do scientists and other mission team members
currently preparing for the 2003 Mars Exploration Rovers mission.
From a simulated mission control room, the students put the Field
Integrated Design and Operations (FIDO) robotic rover through its paces
in the JPL Mars Yard. Operations focused on short distance driving,
trenching into soil using a FIDO wheel and taking images using a camera
on the FIDO robotic arm. Students were able to participate in the
process of characterizing exposed sediments using imaging and
spectroscopy. Using training prepared by The Planetary Society,
students had previously studied physics and geology and participated
in on-line exercises to prepare them to interpret what they would see
through the rover's sensors.
Mission planner Dr. Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu explains details for
science and engineering planning during planning for a simulated
mission by student navigators from the Red Rover Goes to Mars
"It was interesting," said Dr. Eddie Tunstel, FIDO lead
engineer and JPL point-of-contact for the visit. "The discussions
were conducted just as rover mission scientists do here when planning
tasks. Their enthusiasm is great - I noticed many members of the FIDO
team dropping by just to observe the exercise."
Student Navigators Drive Mars Rover Testbed