Monday, September 29, 2008

September - Outreach Month

We end September logging two rover related outreach events. Chris McKay (the Principal Investigator on the rover project) and Michael Sims, both researchers from NASA Ames, and Khalid Al-Ali from Carnegie Mellon University held a talk titled "Rovers in the exploration of extreme environments on Earth, the Moon, and Mars". The talk was held at the NASA Exploration Center and was specifically open to school children. The audience was taken through a range of topics. From motivation and reports on science done in the Antarctic and Mojave desert and the relation of those environments to the search for life in the Solar system. Through the motives at CMU to develop a rover which is accessible, flexible and easy to operate in science missions, without impact on fragile desert crusts on which we may look for the presence of self organizing patterns left by primitive life. Finally Dr. Sims concluded the talk with a retrospective of Lunar and Martian robotic exploration and the most significant results it yielded. The talk ended with the children taking center stage and blasting the lecturers with questions on all angles of space exploration.

The second event was the Sally Ride Science Festival held at Moffett Field across NASA Ames. The Festival is geared towards girls and its aim is to let them engage in science related activities and workshop for a better part of the day. Discovery workshops and tables were set up by NASA Ames groups and local Bay Area groups. A talk was given by Astronaut Wendy B. Lawrence. The Mars Society Northern California chapter has traditionally been present at the Festival and it did so this year too, with an exhibit showcasing the exploration of Mars, its importance and major results results. Girls were invited to step into some of the problems of performing work in space with our simulation kit. Our presenters also displayed a simple rover autonomy demo with a look under the hood of the control software and a simple teleoperation demo with a laptop monitoring setup. We have also used the opportunity to present the NorCal Rover project and make contact with educators who are interested in future rover science classroom presentations. Here are some pictures from the event.