SAND-E has been a brilliant opportunity to do exciting work at the forefront of planetary exploration research, and part of that experience has been working closely with our international partners. Check out our story on the Share America website, highlighting our international collaboration!
Our team is wrapping up their time in Iceland and very pleased with the amazing research the SAND-E team was able to do, along with the fact that we had the opportunity to test our ASAS technology in the field.
SAND-E will allow our science teams to examine and determine causes of variability in the geochemistry, minerology and physical grain properties of fluvial and aeolian sediments. SAND-E scientists got to study the movement of sediments in these unique formations in Iceland, in hopes that it will better inform us of similar landscapes on Mars. We were able to conduct a series of surveys using a variety of operational protocols to test the most efficient approaches of gathering data. Some scenarios allowed the rover to autonomously drive and select scientific sites without human input, and in others the team measured the benefit of short drone flights to scout the area ahead, similar to NASA’s proposed Mars 2020 Mission.
Keep up with us on twitter as we prepare for next year’s field test in Iceland!
Earlier this summer, Mission Control was privileged to work with Dr. Tanya Harrison to put together a demo of our software for an audience at the Amazon Re:MARS conference in Las Vegas.
Among other things, Dr. Harrison’s talk “Roving Robots on the Red Planet,” described communications issues in operating Mars rovers (the time delays and the data transfer limitations) and the challenges current planetary exploration missions face – to highlight her point she operated a Clearpath Warthog UGV rover (our own rover was packed up and on its way to Iceland for our SAND-E mission), using our Mission Control Software thousands of miles away in the Canadian Space Agency Mars yard!
Read more about how we put it together with Clearpath Robotics here!
We are so happy that SAND-E is inspiring people and bringing light to some of the awesome research and tech being developed for NASA’s MARS 2020 mission. Here is a video about the mission on NBC.
SAND-E (Semi-Autonomous Navigation for Detrital Environments) is a NASA-funded project to study Mars-like volcanic sand environments in Iceland, in advance of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission. The study will help NASA prepare for scientific studies of areas on Mars and determine if new exploration strategies, including increased rover autonomy, would benefit future missions. The test site is in the outflow of a glacier, where the SAND-E scientists are particularly interested in the changes in physical and chemical properties of the geological material as it is transported downstream by water (fluvial) and wind (Aeolian) processes.
Our teams have arrived in Iceland and have commenced the testing campaign. Please follow along our social media channels and the hashtag #SANDE to keep up!
We are excited to share that we have been awarded funding under CSA’s STDP AO5.2! 🎉
Rovers are expected to play an important role in commercial exploration of the Moon. However, current rover technology is expensive and requires continuous management by operators back on Earth.
Using rovers can be more cost-effective if they are able to perform more tasks autonomously, with more flexible options for the operators that manage them. This project will allow us to continue developing easy-to-use mission control software to support ongoing low-cost rover operations and to allow rovers to navigate and carry out tasks more independently.
Mission Control Software is a cloud-based software and will enable commercial space companies, mission operators, and researchers to operate frequent, short-duration lunar missions from anywhere on Earth. MCS will help lower the cost of lunar rover missions, making space exploration more accessible a to wider range of Canadian companies, eventually allowing non-experts, including students and members of the Canadian public, to engage in lunar and planetary exploration missions!
Read our press release here
The Mission Control and SAND-E team have been busy at the Lafarge Canada pit in Navan running our Operational Readiness Test (ORT) for the last 2 days. Our team, along with scientists from Texas A&M and NASA Johnson Space Center, have been practicing operations with our rover and a drone… first in preparation for our analogue in Iceland in July, and hopefully eventually on Mars!
Some reasons we do an ORT:
– Discovering unknowns – we can plan everything out to the second, but we won’t know if we’ve missed an important detail until we try running the rover mission scenarios at ORT. The ORT will help us ask questions that we don’t think to ask when we’re planning things out on paper. Most of these questions will relate to how the human team members interpret data and interact with each other. The juiciest unknowns are always the human factors elements.
– ORTs also ensure that all of our systems and procedures are functioning and ready to go for the real deployment in Iceland.
– Testing allows us to compare how certain technologies, like ASAS and the drone, can affect the efficiency of science operations for a Mars rover mission (like Mars 2020).
– The ORT lets us practice a dry-run of our workflow and procedures before our primary mission. It allows us to identify problems in our mission operation design so that we can address them with software and procedural fixes. We also measure the time it takes for each step so that we can better plan and prepare for our mission.
The purpose of the ORT is not to test how well our technology performs but rather to test operations and interfaces, so our test site does not need to simulate our mission test site in terms of terrain features. We just need a big open playground for our robots, which we have here.
We and the SAND-E team are feeling great as we head towards our Iceland mission in early July!
Announcing the winner of the#SANDEMissionPatch Contest 🎉🎉
Our winning entry is from Sawyer Murphy, from Helotes, Texas. Congratulations Sawyer!
Sawyer is a senior at O’Connor High School, and after graduation she’ll be attending The University of Texas at Austin where she will be studying art and design (she has been drawing since the young age of 9!). Sawyer loves anything celestial and will often sit down and enjoy a Neil deGrasse Tyson documentary, so this mission patch contest was a great opportunity intersecting her passions and interests.
The SAND-E team and the team here at Mission Control love the thought and creativity behind this beautiful mission patch and we can’t wait to sport it on our equipment in Iceland this summer!
Thank you to everyone to submitted an entry – we hope you’ll tag along with us throughout the SAND-E Mission. There will be future contests and activities to come!
Credit: Canadian Space Agency
“The leadership shown by this government to make a bold commitment, a promise in the Prime Minister’s words, that “Canada is going to the moon,” is more than an investment in the future; this is a critical step toward a new universe of intellectual and practical possibility.”
– Our CEO Ewan writes about Canada’s commitment to go to the Moon in a recent Globe and Mail piece. Let us know what you think on Facebook or Twitter.