Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Zzyzx Spaceward Bound Trip (March 28th - April 2nd, 2010)

I've returned from a week-long trip to Zzyzx, CA with other members of the rover team and participants in the NASA Spaceward Bound project. Our group included a number of educators, scientists, and science students who worked on several different science projects during the week, such as science balloons, lava tube caving, and underwater microscopy. Our rover team provided one of the science projects with the participants operating the rovers out in different field environments each day. We operated on and around old lava flows, inside a lava tube, on a dry lake salt flat, and at night using a light attached to the rover's camera turret.

One of the highlights from the trip having the 5th grade students from Rob Palassou's Science Club from San Francisco operate one of the rovers at Zzyzx. They were broken up into teams of two students, where one team would hide an orange road cone within a bounded area, and another team would have ten minutes to search for it using the rover. The rover operating team were located in a nearby building and could only use the rover's camera to find the cone. The teams were cycled through so all the kids had a chance to hide and also search for the cone. Of the seven teams, two were successful at finding the cone target. All of the kids seemed to really enjoy the experience.

One the last day of the field operations, we set up a boom WIFI antenna on a hill at the Zzyzx science station and drove one of the rovers out on the dry lake salt flats to see how far it could get before the communication became too weak. The rover made it about half a mile away from base before it lost communication and we had to trudge out onto the muddy salt flats to retrieve it.

NASA Spaceward Bound Trip Info