Winding Down

1 12 2009

The days left at Lake Bonney are becoming very few. ENDURANCE has completed all of the major science objectives: profiling the entire west lobe biogeochemistry, obtaining bathymetry of the entire lake, exploring the contact between the glacier and the lake bed. And it’s demonstrated the engineering objectives to make it all possible, too. Yesterday, ENDURANCE completed a mission where we detached the communications fiber after it was initialized in the water. It got all the data, found its way back to the melthole and came right up to the surface—all by itself.
Now we’re trying to figure out what else to do to really show off its capabilities. Not that we’re lacking in ideas. ENDURANCE is proving to be a great platform for experimenting with new ways of doing robotic science in extreme environments, just as everyone had hoped. I’m working on a method for ensuring ENDURANCE can get back to the melthole, even if the DVL navigation sensor has a failure. Chris is perfecting the automated sonde drop routine to handle the outages the sonde’s sonar altimeter is experiencing due to poor reflections off of the soft lake bottom sediments. Shilpa is updating the system executive module to properly handle the new functionality. We hope to pull off a totally autonomous mission with full science sampling and return home in the face of some outages by the time we leave.

Missions have become much less stressfull. As opposed to the early days where we were constantly monitoring telemetry, issuing commands for things that ENDURANCE couldn’t yet do on its own, tracking from the surface to make sure we had exact GPS coordinates for sonde drops, the ‘bot is now pretty much off on its own.

Bill, Chris, Shilpa, and Peter watching the sonar data visualizer, waiting around for the 'bot to finish its mission.

We still “watch over its shoulder” via the data coming on the fiber-optic tether, but there’s not much else to do for missions once the bot is initialized and sent off in the morning.

For a change, Vickie gets a rest and Shilpa tends the fiber while the 'bot is out doing its rounds. Up till recently, Vickie would be out on the ice tracking the 'bot's magnetic beacon and getting GPS fixes for sonde drop locations, and Shilpa would be at mission control checking telemetry, issuing commands, writing comments in the data log, etc.

Hmm, Shilpa doing the fiber tending seems to have a calming effect on everyone.

Well, not on everyone. (Bill doing push-ups).




One response

2 12 2009
Maria Richmond

looks and sounds great. Congrats to the whole team!
Maria, Kristof’s mom

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