SAND-E ORT

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!