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.
Keep up to date with us on social media with the hashtag #SANDE!
Mission Control is thrilled to present its Mission Patch contest for SAND-E!
A mission patch is an emblem worn during both human and robotic space missions, symbolizing mission objectives. For example, NASA’s InSight Mars mission patch portrays the lander on Mars with the interior of the planet visible, as the objective of the mission is to study the heart of Mars. Mission patches are a very important part the expedition!
Mission Control needs YOU to design a mission patch for our SAND-E expedition in Iceland. We are part of a NASA-funded project led by Texas A&M University, and will be providing our technology for navigational safety and scientific studies to look at Mars-like volcanic sand environments in advance of NASA’s Mars 2020 rover mission to the red planet.
If you are a student ages 13-18 in Canada, the United States or Iceland, you can enter for a chance for your mission patch to be sported by our rover during its trek across the Mars-like terrain in Iceland. It will also be featured during the 2019 Mission Control Academy missions!
Help us by downloading and sharing our flyer with your students or friends.
Submission Deadline is March 31, 2019.
In 2020, NASA will launch their next ambitious Mars rover as part of the Mars 2020 mission.
In advance of this, we’re excited to announce a partnership with Texas A&M University on a NASA-funded project to study Mars-like volcanic sand environments in Iceland. This study will help NASA prepare for scientific studies of areas on Mars that are geologically similar to the field sites in Iceland, and determine if new exploration strategies, including increased rover autonomy, would benefit future missions.
An advanced version of our Autonomous Soil Assessment software will be used during the simulated Mars rover missions in Iceland in 2019 and 2020 to determine whether it could increase the scientific return of NASA’s upcoming Mars 2020 mission. The analogue missions will include a drone working in collaboration with the rover, to replicate scenarios anticipated for the Mars 2020 rover and helicopter.
We are also excited to lead education and outreach for the project, including providing our Mission Control Academy (MCA) experiential learning program to students in Houston and Ottawa.
View our press release for more details on this announcement.
Pictured here is a view of the complex Mars-like terrain in Iceland that we will conduct our study on.