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MARS2013, second week: one rover battles on the field, the other flies to Madrid

The first Martian week of the Puli ended with successful checkouts, the second started with the first full-scale runs. Although we did cover considerable distance, our efforts were hindered by  communication problems at the field. Meanwhile, the twin rover visited the World ATM (Air Traffic Management) Congress in Madrid, as a guest of our newest silver sponsor, HungaroControl.

Our I2 rover in the Saharan desert. Photo: (c) Katja Zanella-Kux (ÖWF)

After the on-site preparations of the MARS2013 simulation, the mission officially kicked off on Monday, February 11th, with the planting of the ÖWF-flag and a short chat with astronaut Chris Hadfield, current commander of ISS.

The Bush Encounter

On Monday, the Puli rover mostly scouted around the camp of the MARS2013 field crew. The team drives the rover in small steps: one leg lasts for 4-8 seconds, covering between 0.5-1.5 m, depending on the actual rpm of the wheels. Then it snaps a photo, sends it over to the MCC; the Telemetry person checks the incoming data, identifies possible hazards, consults with the Flight Director and other members; finally the Rover Driver issues another drive command. A single iteration takes about 2-3 minutes, and we cleared the camp in about an hour.

Mr Tarlós at the helm!

Our host, Mr. István Tarlós, Mayor of Budapest also visited the Puli MCC and drove the rover itself – he commanded a 2-meter drive on a flat plain outside the camp. Later, the team spotted something shiny in the images and rushed the rover towards it, passing two small bushes on the way. However, as the drivers hesitated to continue and risk crossing a road with the undeniably fragile rover, the field crew measured increasing wind speeds and issued a sandstorm-alert. Reluctantly, the team let go of the distant, shiny thing and headed the rover back to the camp – only to be caught in a wifi void between the tents. The rover was finally carried into safety by a crew member. During the day we covered around 100 meters - not bad for a first run, considering that the GLXP requirement on the Moon will be a "mere" 500 meters...

Greetings from Morocco!

On Wednesday (13th), the rover was dispatched at a more exciting location. Before that, we started the day with the Masat-1 anniversary picture, but run into communication troubles right away – the rover detected no wifi at the first spot so the crew had to carry it away until it acquired the signal again. After the shooting, the crew delivered the rover to the selected spot away from the camp. At the spot, however, the rover detected only very weak wireless network, and moving either back or forth didn't help it. Out of other options, the team commanded the rover to slowly turn around and assemble a panorama if the rather poor network connection allowed. The field crew was busy doing the other experiments, so it took a few hours before they could come back for the rover and transfer it to another spot, closer to the antennas.

The rover has stereo cameras to generate 3D images of the surroundings - here is an anaglyph from Morocco! (You need red-cyan glasses to see it in 3D.)

With the signal strength improved from abysmal to simply poor, the rover started to drive, identifed a tree and a road and assembled another panorama. The most interesting situation occurred when a long drive command (forward for 5 minutes) was sent: the rover turned right back unexpectedly, and drove back to the area where it started from. Our current hypothesis is that one of the wheels got stuck by a rock or in a hole and turned the rover, but we have to analyze the telemetry in more detail. Shorter drive commands and/or monitoring the progress by taking in-drive pictures more often will help to prevent such unexpected turns. An IMU (inertial measurement unit) would be an even better solution, but that will have to wait at least until the next iteration of the Puli rover.

We had a guest on this day too, György Szabó, leader of the Jobbik fraction of the municipality, visited the Mission Control.

Meanwhile, the second rover and our team leader arrived in Madrid to the World ATM Congress. The two main highlights of the stand of HungaroControl were their air navigation research, development and simulation (CDRS) and our very own rover. As Mr. Kornél Szepessy, CEO of HungaroControl said: “HungaroControl supports initiatives contributing to the popularization of air navigation control, aviation and air transport, research and development and innovation projects and it pays particular attention to fostering young talents. This is why we were more than happy to give our support to the initiative of a team of engineers called Puli Space Technologies who intend to send an instrument of their own development to the Moon by 2015 in the framework of the 'Google Lunar X Prize' international innovation competition which offers opportunities for highly exciting forms of cooperation.”

During the third week it is planned that the Puli rover will be transferred to the southern camp, a smaller outpost separated from the main facility. Stay tuned!

Working over hours, checking the Polish Magma White rover in the tent, in 3D.


HungaroControl is a Silver Sponsor of the MARS2013 mission of Team Puli Space.

Air traffic controllers of HungaroControl guarantee safe traffic for almost 600 thousand aircrafts in the upper airspace and at the Budapest Liszt Ferenc International Airport every year. State-of-the-art technology, advanced development and services make HungaroControl one of the most accurate, efficient and reliable providers of international air traffic control.

Telenor Hungary Plc provided the team with various IT devices: most importantly, two notebooks for the Flight Director and the Rover Driver and five higsh-speed (LTE) dongles for alternate broadband access, in case of network or power outages and other emergency situations.

S&T Consulting Hungary Ltd, our first Gold Sponsor provided us with licences and support for the Creo CAD/CAM/CAE engineering software suite that was essential to design and build the Puli rover.


Image sources:

1. 4.) Katja Zanella-Kux (ÖWF)
2. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.) Puli Space

3.) Mihály Majtényi (budapest.hu)

Last Updated (Wednesday, 27 February 2013 13:51)

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