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MARS2013, third week: rover ballet in the desert

Although the Puli rover didn't reach the southern camp of the MARS2013, last week was far from boring. We completed three successful test runs at the northern camp, one of which was a joint mission with the Polish Magma White rover. The two rovers danced around each other for hours – for the equal delight of the controllers at home and the field crew in Morocco.

We ended our last report with a promise of new adventures at the southern camp, the small outpost of the MARS2013 simulation. After some schedule and management hurdles with the ÖWF, the rover finally stayed at the northern camp and we had to cancel our Tuesday run, because the wireless antennas were transported for a few days to the southern camp.

Other four-wheeled animals at the camp

But by Wednesday afternoon we were back in business. The antenna settings of the rover were modified. We assumed that part of last week's reception problems was caused by the rover's proximity to the ground. The long, high-gain antennas we were using allowed us long range, but the reception was limited to a 25° cone perpendicular to the antenna, and those probably didn't reached the height of the transmitters. So one of the long, high-gain antennas was replaced with a shorter one that is more limited range but less limited in direction. The mixed configuration resulted in much stronger reception than before. Nevertheless, about 50-60 m away from the camp, the signal inevitably dropped below the safe level, so we spent four hours in the afternoon going round and round around the camp. The day ended as the Sun set and the batteries were finally depleted.

On Wednesday, the Mission Contol was also visited by journalists from the Hungarian news portal index.hu and a filming crew from d1tv.hu. The latter group spent, astonishingly, six straight hours filming the team and the second rover. Their cameraman even asked the final question (no, not the one with the answer 42) – how could one join the Puli Space team?...

The Hunveyor station had some weather to measure

Our next run was on Saturday (23rd). The day started with power troubles: the batteries of the rover were still low on juice. After a few hours spent on the charger, the rover was finally ready to set off. This run was especially interesting: we agreed with the controllers of the Polish Magma White rover to do a joint test run. The two rovers marched bravely off into a sand storm, Puli rover in the front, measuring the wifi strength, Magma rover at the back, filming our movements. Then we turned around, and made a few shots too – the dance continued for a few hours, for the great delight of the field crew at the camp. The sand turned out to be less problematic than expected: some photos were indeed very dark, but the wind that blew the sand into the cameras then blew it out too, clearing our view. As we have measured the geometry of our cameras with the help of our two-men field crew and a tape ruler during the preparation week, we helped the the Magma rover to calibrate their photo-based distance estimates. Both rovers battled with the persisting connection problems, but the run was successful overall.

The Puli rover through the the eyes of Magma White...

...and Magma White through the eyes of Puli.

Unsurprisingly, we spent most of the short Sunday run (24th) exploring the not-wifi-covered parts of the field around the camp, but by the end of the day, the rover finally entered wifi-heaven – and almost hit the test track of the Delta experiment, where the astronauts tested how the spacesuits influenced their mobility and performance. The rover watched the sunset from the far end of the test track, as this eventful, sometimes cumbersome, but in the end, quite successful week came to an end.

Check out this cool video, showing how the MARS2013 Mission Control starts the day, followed by short clips showing the Delta, Puli and Cliffbot experiments.

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. 3. 6. 7.) Puli Space
5.) ABM Space Education

Last Updated (Wednesday, 27 February 2013 13:49)

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