HMP 2010: First K10 Robot Field Tests – Dr Brian Glass's 50th Birthday!


This blog is courtesy of Haughton Mars Project (HMP)

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July 22 Flickr Photo Set

copyright 2010 Mars Institute
It snowed overnight and throughout the day, but there is a good chance of sunny weather over the weekend.

The K10 team from NASA Ames, Dr Trey Smith, Susan Lee, Vinh To, Eric Park and Dr Hans Utz, led by Dr Matthew Dean, drove the robot out to Von Braun Planitia. Thanks go to our camp chef, Jeff Fagen, for organizing lunch shifts for the K10 team so that they could work continuously.

The Hamilton Sundstrand team, Ron Sidgreaves and Todd Glazier, began installing the suit ports into the Mars-1 Humvee Rover. Thanks to Jesse Weaver and Travis Oaks (technicians) for helping.

After dinner, we celebrated Dr Brian Glass’s 50th birthday! Dr Brian, from NASA Ames, was first involved with the HMP in 1998 and has not had a birthday at home since that year. Dr Brian’s birthday has become somewhat of a mid-season ritual, which usually occurs at the peak of the season. He began work at HMP doing wireless communications for field science, and research with rovers, and in the last 5 or 6 years has focused on automated drills. This season he is continuing testing with the the CRUX (Construction Resource Utilization Explorer) Drill.

HMP 2010: Traverse to Wyle Hill and Other HMP Activities


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July 21 Flickr Photo Set

copyright 2010 Mars Institute

Today was overcast with no precipitation.

Byron Adams and Kelsey Young, both in the Geology Department at ASU, traversed to Wyle Hill above Trinity Lake and collected samples of impact breccia. This is research they are doing in addition to working with the K10 robot team.

The K10 team from NASA Ames, Dr Trey Smith, Susan Lee, Vinh To, Eric Park and Dr Hans Utz, led by Dr Matthew Dean, set up a repeater at location 8 on Von Braun Planitia and have their robot nearly ready for testing.

The CRUX (Construction Resource Utilization Explorer) Drill team, Dr Brian Glass (Senior Scientist, Drilling Automation, NASA Ames), Dr Sarah Thompson (NASA Ames), Shannon Statham (Georgia Tech, Ph.D. student) and Mateusz Szczesiak (Honeybee Robotics), successfully tested their communication systems, scouted for locations and picked out a drilling site.

Thanks to Ben Audlaluk (from Grise Fiord) for supporting the traverses, and to Jesse Weaver (mechanic) and his assistant, Travis Oaks, for keeping the Kawasaki bikes in tip top shape.

Ron Sidgreaves and Todd Glazier, both of Hamilton Sundstrand, have the two suit ports well underway. They will be installing them on the back of the Mars-1 Humvee Rover tomorrow.

HMP 2010: CRUX Drill Team Arrives, Greenhouse Team Departs


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July 20 Flickr Photo Set

copyright 2010 Mars Institute
The day started with marginal winds and low visibility, but cleared up after lunch. As we’ve hit the peak of the season, the HMP Core Team held a meeting after breakfast to insure that everything runs smoothly.

The K10 Robot team from NASA Ames, led by Dr Matthew Deans and including Dr Trey Smith, Susan Lee, Vinh To, Eric Park and Dr Hans Utz, tested instruments and components and traversed with the robot during a break in the weather. Kelsey Young and Byron Adams (both PhD students in the Geology Dept. at ASU) did traverse planning for this year’s follow-up mission. The robot team will program the traverse coordinates into the robot accordingly.

The Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse team, Matt Bamsey (CSA), Talal Abboud (CSA) and Thomas Graham (Univ. of Guelph) wrapped up and packed and will be monitoring the greenhouse remotely until next HMP season. They departed this evening, along with Drs Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul (both faculty at the University of Florida).

The rest of the CRUX drill team: Dr Brian Glass (Senior Scientist, Drilling Automation, NASA Ames), Dr Sarah Thompson (NASA Ames) and Shannon Statham (Georgia Tech, Ph.D. student), arrived on Devon Island this evening. They reunited with their fourth team member, Mateusz Szczesiak (Honeybee Robotics), who has been at the HMP Research Station running tests as part of his research for Honeybee.

A helo flight to prepare for next year


Originally Posted on July 23rd, 2010 by Marc Seibert
This blog is courtesy of Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP)
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On the way back from Kelly Lake, we swung by Pavilion Lake to take some shots of the live sub operations underway. This is a very beautiful part of the world.

Next year the team will be diving into a lake called Kelly Lake, and potentially Pavilion Lake at the same time.  This creates a challenge for the communications team.  Both sites must have broadband access to the Space Network Research Federation (SNRF) and the Internet, and be able to communicate from site to site at all times.

Satellite connectivity is great, but in this environment the “terrain mask” (steep rise of the terrain all around us) makes it difficult to hit a satcom “bird” in the sky from these high northern latitudes.  On top of this, satellite transponder time can be expensive (especially considering the amount of “megahertz” or transponder we need!), and adds a significant “latency” to the communications link (in both directions) because the satellites are orbiting so far above the Earth.  This latency can cause problems for some of the operations conducted by this team, and terrestrial interfaces tend to have very low latency.

We took a Trackstick with us in the helicopter, and you can see the path we flew here (thanks to Google Earth!)

So we took off in a helicopter in Lillooet, and flew to Kelly Lake to visit and survey the terrestrial (ground/mountain-based) communications options for communications near the lake.  If we can avoid using a satcom link, we’ll have greater bandwidth and network performance at the 2011 test operations.

We found several options for connectivity or relay on a few mountains surrounding Kelly Lake, and even some options to link the two lakes together for next year’s mission.  This begins a year’s worth of planning “now”.  ; )

– Marc

Pavilion Lake, looking south

One of the DeepWorker chase boats, looking south.

Desert RATS Procedural Dry-Runs a Success

By Ben Peters


It’s that time of year again and everyone is gearing up for the field season of Desert Research and Technology Studies (DRATS)! This year’s 14 day mission will officially kick-off on August 30, 2010 and will run through September 13, 2010. 

DRATS is an important NASA Analog program that is entering its 13th year of field testing. The purpose of the program is to train people and test equipment in a simulated mission environment comparable to the surface of the Moon or Mars in order to prepare for future space missions. The analog mission team will be heading out to Black Point Lava Flow, north of Flagstaff, Arizona, on August 24 to begin setting up camp and preparing the crew, hardware, and communication systems for the mission.    


Ben interviewing three of the Building 9 interns who get to work on the SEVs.


Last week, the technical teams began preparation for the field test by performing procedural dry-runs at the Johnson Space Center (JSC).   These procedural dry-runs provide the mission team and crew the opportunity to interact with the hardware and develop detailed operational processes and procedures before heading out to the Arizona desert. 

For example, I witnessed the Extravehicular Activity (EVA)  Team develop a step by step “how-to” guide for the crew who will be using a backpack system to simulate spacewalks out in the desert. The particular system had a GPS unit that allows the user to make a multimedia “field note” complete with an exact GPS tag of the location. It is a very cool system but it is important to develop a checklist and a guide for its users so that valuable time isn’t wasted in the field figuring out how it works.

I have had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing several Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who support various teams involved with DRATS this year…and these are just a few!

·         Flight Surgeon Rick Sheuring shared about how astronauts will simulate medical emergencies during the mission in order to prepare for and learn how to handle a similar occurrence if it were to happen while on the surface of a different planet. 

·         Fernando Zumbado, a robotic systems engineer, provided a brief overview of the potable water dispenser hardware and his role as a “water boy” for DRATS.

·         Scott Bleisath provided details for the EVA backpacks that the crew will wear during their field excursions. 

·         Chris Looper explained the training he is receiving as a traverse crew member.

·         Terry Tri presented an overview of the new Pressurized Excursion Module (PEM) that will make its debut in the desert this year.


Barbara Romig (DRATS Mission Manager) stands on the steps of the Habitat Development Unit (HDU) now configured as the Pressurized Excursion Module (PEM). 


Photos taken during the procedural dry-runs have already been posted to NASA Analogs Flickr. All of the interviews and hardware overviews will be posted to the NASA Analog TV Channel within the next few weeks. 

Check back for the latest updates on the integrated testing dry-runs at JSC the weeks of July 26-July 30 and August 9-August 13. During the integrated dry-runs, mission teams will be practicing traverses in the Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV), EVAs, geological and scientific tasks, as well as hardware integration. 

Continue to follow along as the mission dates draw nearer at the following sites:


It’s going to be a great year for DRATS and I feel very lucky to be a part of it.




HMP-2010: A Productive Day with Unfriendly Weather


Regardless of mostly relentless rain, participants moved forward with their research.


The K10 Robot team from NASA Ames, led by Dr Matt Deans and including Dr Trey Smith, Susan Lee, Vinh To, Eric Park and Dr Hans Utz, tested instruments and components and traversed with the robot during a break in the weather. Kelsey Young and Byron Adams (both PhD students in the Geology Dept. at ASU) did traverse planning for this year’s follow-up mission. The robot team will program the traverse coordinates into the robot accordingly.


Ron Sidgreaves and Todd Glazier of Hamilton Sundstrand have almost completed the second suit and got started on the installation of two suit ports on the Mars-1 Humvee Rover; one for each back door. There will be some exciting research this season on this front.


This evening there were two lectures. The first was a dual talk by Drs Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul, both faculty at the University of Florida, in the area of space biology. It has been a very busy year for them, having flown life science experiments on various space missions. They have implemented a version of one of their experiments into the Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse.


Sean Alexander (City Bike / talked about the diverse history of Kowasaki, and also learned about his own colorful history and wide range of talents.

Pavilion Lake Research Project: Wrapping Up 2010

Originally Posted on July 20th, 2010 by Allyson Brady

 This blog is courtesy of Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP)

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The PLRP 2010 field season has come to a close and I am both saddened by the fact that operations are finished for another year but excited by the prospect of adding the data we’ve collected this year to our growing body of knowledge about this unique lake. I am in awe of the work that has been done by this amazing team and of how much we’ve grown, while maintaining the sense of adventure and camaraderie that to me, helps to define the PLRP.

We’ve taken great strides towards answering many of our research questions and in the process, with every answer we have come up with many more questions that will keep the PLRP team occupied for quite some time. Fortunately, our family continues to grow and every year we welcome new individuals who bring a unique perspective and desire to tease out the mysteries Pavilion has to offer. We have also been blessed this year by the addition of two little members to the PLRP family, Darlene Lim’s daughter Amelia and Greg Slater’s son Joseph. We look forward to the day when they are exploring the lake alongside us.


DeepWorker Pilots and Nuytco Team: 2010

The PLRP provides a wealth of research opportunities, and not just those focused on understanding the processes leading to the formation of the structures at Pavilion Lake but also to understanding fundamental biological, chemical and physical processes. The research contributions from our participating scientists and graduate students have resulted in a number of recent publications and are essential to increasing our understanding of Earth and astrobiological systems. We’re very proud of the role that the PLRP has played in developing operational technologies and protocols that not only help us meet our science objectives but provide important input into future space science missions.

With the addition of our two newest scientist pilots, astronauts Chris Hadfield and Stan Love, we had 34 DeepWorker missions over 10 days of operations. This year we were aided greatly in our pre-season flight planning by the wonderful team from NASA Ames led by Matt Deans and David Lees who developed an amazing flight planning tool that enabled us to search images and flight paths from previous years while building flight plans in Google Earth. Flights this year were planned to collect images of the remaining unexplored regions of the lake, to record detailed images of areas of interest identified from 2008 and 2009 data and to use the submersibles in combination with other analytical tools such as a conductivity, temperature and depth (CTD) instrument and our autonomous underwater vehicle(s) (AUV). Our ability to review post-flight video data in the field, an effort pioneered in 2009, added greatly to our productivity as this information was used immediately by the science backroom team to modify existing flight plans to best optimize our data collection. As part of the daily flight debriefs, we have also continued to apply metrics associated with scientific productivity to understand factors that influence scientific exploration. New this year to the DeepWorker flight repertoire were long ~ 5 hour flights and two night flights to investigate the grazing activity that we suspect may occur in the lake. To add to the innovations this year, Nick Wilkinson designed a fantastic, interactive program for use in classifying the microbialite images. This new tool will allow us to efficiently organize and process our field data over the coming months. Stay tuned for updates.


The Amazing Pavilion Lake Research Project Team: 2010!

In case our DeepWorker operations didn’t keep us busy enough, we had a number of other important activities included in the field schedule this year. The UBC and University of Delaware AUV teams produced fantastic images of the lake bottom that were often used to compliment the DeepWorker flights and give us a better picture of where interesting structures and features are in the lake. Numerous SCUBA dives were performed by our intrepid team of divers to collect water and microbialite samples that were shared between various research groups in an effort to combine and compliment analytical findings. These samples will be characterized from a virology, microbial lipid, isotopic and genetic point of view to provide more information about the role of biology in the formation of the microbialites and what biosignatures may be left behind. Water samples were collected from nearby lakes including Crown, Turquoise, Pear and Kelly Lake to continue to help us put Pavilion Lake in context. Kelly Lake, which also hosts microbialites and has been an area of interest to the PLRP team for many years, was also the focus of significant AUV activities this year. Microbial mats were once again collected from the Cariboo Plateau lakes and giant pancakes were eaten by all (well, almost all). As a new participatory activity this year, our visiting teacherswere given the task of selecting a SCUBA dive based on their understanding of the research questions of interest (on their first day no less!). I’m happy to report that they eagerly interviewed members of the team before presenting their selected dive and rationale to the group for inclusion in the next day’s diving schedule. Community Day was another great success this year with the team happy to show off our work and answer questions from the many visitors we had to the site. Busy indeed!

We plan on continuing our updates throughout the year as we analyze samples and work through the amazing amount of data that were collected. Thanks to all who have read about our activities and through this process, have joined in our adventure. See you next year!

~ Allyson

HMP-2010: Nearing Peak in HMP Camp Activity – Daily Updates Commence!


This blog is courtesy of Haughton Mars Project (HMP)

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Two twin otter flights came in today with 10 participants total, including the K10 robot team lead by Dr. Matt Deans, supported by Dr Trey Smith, Dr Hans Utz, Susan Lee, Vinh To and Eric Park (all from NASA Ames), and Byron Adams and Kelsey Young (both from the Geology Dept. at Arizona State University). On the second flight was Peter Ikaluk from Resolute Bay and [yours truly] Elaine Walker (E/PO, Mars Institute).

The K10 robot team will be following up on work done during the 2009 field season by Dr Pascal Lee (Director, HMP / NASA Ames, Mars Institute, SETI Institute), Dr Mark Helper (Distinguished Senior Lecturer, University of Texas at Austin) and Dr Essam Heggy (Planetary Scientist, JPL). Last season they completed simulated lunar geological and geophysical traverses as part of their studies of robotic follow-up to human exploration, and of the efficiencies of pressured rover and EVA exploration.

Peter and Elaine’s flight landed at HumVee Beach where the Moon-1 Humvee Rover and supporting vehicles are parked. Elaine took pictures and video of the site while Peter and the two Ken Borek pilots loaded all four of the Humvee tracks onto the twin otter. They are quite heavy.

John Schutt (HMP camp manager) gave the new arrivals a tour of the HMP base camp and safety briefings, then lead the evening meeting in the mess tent. Jeff Fagen is our new camp cook. Jeff is from Vanouver, and so far he is a big hit. His food is excellent as well. He and John Schutt have additional support from Nathan Kalluk, Star Amurulak and Peter Ikaluk from Resolute Bay, and Terry Pijimini and Ben Audlaluk from Grise Fiord.

There are several research projects going on simultaneously including the ongoing Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse effort lead by Matt Bamsey (CSA), a space biology study led by Dr’s Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul (Univ. of Florida), the K10 robot team led by Dr Matt Deans, research on the immune system by Dr Valerie Myers from NASA JSC, as well as geology research by Dr. Pascal Lee and Kelsey Young, as part of her PhD thesis at ASU. Pascal and Kelsey hope to gain further understanding in the glacial evolution and geologic history of the Haughton impact structure, date the crater more accurately, and to learn more about the makeup and size of the impactor itself, using the geochemical trace that it left behind.

It was 6 celsius today with light rain. The mood is very high at camp and we look forward to a great season as we near the peak in camp population.

Please stay tuned for photos.

HMP-2010: A Productive Day with Friendly Weather


This blog is courtesy of Haughton Mars Project (HMP)

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 We had the usual 10:30AM Sunday brunch, which allows the cook and kitchen help to rest. As usual, John Schutt (HMP camp manager) was up early taking care of the camp.

 After brunch, Drs Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul (both faculty at the University of Florida) along with Kelsey Young and Byron Adams (both in the Geology Dept. at ASU), went to Drill Hill, Gemini Hills and Planet of the Apes Valley to conduct research, and were back in time for dinner. Their traverse was supported by Ben Audlaluk from Grise Fiord.

 The Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse team will be in operational mode tonight, running a two day test of the system where they won’t touch anything and just let it run. The two day operational mode will test the changes implemented this year as they get ready for their departure in a few days.

Hamilton Sundstrand’s new suit port concepts will be interfaced into the Mars-1 HumVee Rover again this season and tested in the next few weeks. The idea of suit ports is that rather than going through an airlock, one can step into the spacesuit through the backpack and be outside within minutes.

Led by Dr Matt Deans, the NASA Ames K10 robot team had a productive day. Vinh To set up the computer, Susan Lee got the K10 robot set up with help from Dr Hans Utz, Dr Trey Smith did the software checkout and Eric Park set up networking for the robot. The team ran some tests, moved the robot around and surprised passers by with the robot’s Pac Man sound cues.

 Dr Valerie Myers (NASA JSC) collected saliva samples this morning from some lucky volunteers. She is conducting a viral reaction study with the microbiology group at JSC. The idea is that during space flight an astronaut’s immune system is suppressed and the virus can be found being shed in the saliva. Outbreaks are rare, but it can be debilitating for long duration flights. The team wants to find out why it happens and learn how to keep it from happening.

Robotic Choreography

Originally Posted on July 19th, 2010 by Alex Forrest


This blog is courtesy of Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP)

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DORA and UBC-Gavia in the water ready to deploy in Pavilion Lake.

Its now been just over a week since the end of our adventures at Pavilion Lake and, as I start trying to look at all the data we’ve collected, I can’t help but be impressed with our successes. In addition to the image mosaicing that I was working on, and showed pictures of in an earlier post, my specific focus of being up at the lake was running coordinated missions between the two autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), that we had on-site from the University of British Columbia and the University of Delaware, and the Deepworker vehicles. Our mission planning goals were twofold; joint objectives and joint missions.

Joint objective style missions measure parameters that are relatively static in time (i.e. photos of microbialites). This means that coordinating different platforms isn’t necessary but coordinating their datasets are. This requires that the timestamps of each data stream be precisely set and that the dataset is georeferenced to a high degree of accuracy. This work was started last year but continued this year by using the collected images from Deepworker and comparing it with AUV collected data (e.g. high-precision bathymetry).

Comparing multibeam bathymetry collected with DORA with detailed imagery from UBC-Gavia.

Joint missions involved a significantly greater degree of coordination as it involved running the vehicles at the same time as the Deepworkers. Our experiment this year was to look at the area of increased salinity at the bottom of the lake. To this end had the Deepworkers crossing the bottom of the basin at about 1 m from the bottom (> 55 m depth), while running UBC-Gavia at 40 m depth. The greatest debate was trying to decide what the minimum safe distance was to be between the two platforms! In the end we ran AUV missions down to 48 m without any problems. Although we’re just starting to process all of this data now, from both styles of missions, we’re excited about what new perspectives these combined datasets might hold.