[meteorite-list] JPL Unveils New Testing Facility for Mars Rovers

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2007 09:39:27 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <200706201639.JAA17220_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


JPL unveils new testing facility for Mars rovers
By Elise Kleeman
Whittier Daily news
June 20, 2007

LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE - JPL scientists and engineers unveiled a little piece
of Mars Tuesday right in their own back yard.

With giant ceremonial scissors, they cut the ribbon for the laboratory's
new Mars Yard, a playground of volcanic rocks and brown sand for testing
future generations of rovers.

On Mars, said Samad Hayati, JPL's Mars technology program manager,
rovers "have to work on a surface that is not known ahead of time ...
one little mistake can actually end the whole mission."

But by practicing with prototypes in the Mars Yard, he said, engineers
can understand the limitations of their robotic explorers, preventing
any such dire errors.

The 24,000-square-foot, $1million Mars Yard replaces a much smaller area
that engineers used for testing the rovers now on the Red Planet.

The expansion, Hayati said, was necessary to accommodate trials with the
much larger Mars Science Laboratory, a mission now being prepared to
search for signs of life on Mars.

Compared to the Mars Exploration Rovers, MSL is a robotic
behemoth, weighing four times as much and measuring about nine feet from
end to end. It is expected to land on Mars in the fall of 2010.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, engineer Sean Haggart took an early
prototype of MSL for a spin across the sandy terrain.

Using a silver-color box covered in switches, he drove the bare-bones
model of the craft forward at top speed - a tortoiselike pace.

"So far, it's actually doing very well," said John Klein, MSL's deputy
project manager.

Testing will continue to find how well MSL tackles driving over big
rocks and up steep hills, he said.

Everything they learn will be compiled into the final design, which
crews will begin to build in February, Klein said.
Received on Wed 20 Jun 2007 12:39:27 PM PDT

Help support this free mailing list:

Yahoo MyWeb