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  Visit to JPL (Picture gallery)

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Author Topic:   Visit to JPL (Picture gallery)
Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27327
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 10-29-2002 12:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yesterday, I had the pleasure to tour NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. A long time friend of mine works there and was kind enough to take time out of his day to show me around. As it happened, several milestone events were occurring as related to the Mars Exploration Rovers lending to some pretty amazing sights:

This is Mars Exploration Rover-2 (MER-2), fully assembled for the first time (though some of its solar panels are not fully deployed).

Another first: the DTM (Dynamic [or Developmental] Test Model takes its "first steps". This fully configured MER will remain on Earth and be used for troubleshooting if either of the two flight rovers run into trouble. The DTM uses the same software and control mechanisms as the flight hardware.

The predecessor to the DTM, this MER unit has been used for both operational tests and PR demonstrations. Its sitting on 18" of volcanic rock -- a reasonable simulation of the Martian surface. Lamps overhead (not in view of this picture) can simulate Martian daylight.

The landing for each MER will resemble that of the Pathfinder mission. A parachute will deploy to slow the spacecraft, rockets will fire to slow it further just before impact, and airbags will inflate to cushion the landing.

This is MER-1 in launch configuration. At top is the heatshield -- in other words, the rover is inside, upside-down. This particular test was recording stage separation load stresses during launch. Pyros fired and the payload adapter fitting dropped a few inches to simulate the same conditions that MER will experience this June.

At the end of my tour, we stopped by the JPL auditorium -- you see this room during the press conferences broadcast on NASA TV -- where a full scale Voyager can be seen.

Rodina
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posted 10-29-2002 12:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Rodina   Click Here to Email Rodina     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Cool pix, thanks.

I had the pleasure of running into Ed Stone, long time director of JPL, about ten years ago. Damned nicest fellow.

mensax
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Posts: 861
From: Virginia
Registered: Apr 2002

posted 10-30-2002 06:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mensax   Click Here to Email mensax     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you Robert! Very impressive.

Philip
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From: Brussels, Belgium
Registered: Jan 2001

posted 10-30-2002 12:41 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Superb images Robert ...
I had good contacts with engineers at JPL ... They're doing an insanely great job !
...
And You should see their Computer - department!!!

spaceuk
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From: Staffs, UK
Registered: Aug 2002

posted 11-03-2002 05:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spaceuk     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It was nice to see the rover wheels have spiral 'tracks'.

This reminds me of the concepts - which I had pleasure of examining for a BIS Spaceflight article I wrote back in early 70s -that were to have been used on post Apollo-11 missions for manned and unmanned lunar rovers (molab's etc).

Its nice to see the technology at last having a serious use.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-03-2002 06:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Two interesting facts about the wheels -- both of which I learned while on my tour:

1. The wheels originally had spikes to help the rover traverse over rocks and other obstacles. They worked rather well. The problem became avoiding the airbags. If the rover caught part of the airbag material with its wheels, it would become tangled and there was absolutley no way it could detangle itself (they tried just about everything in simulations).

2. The wheels can compress slightly to offer additional suspension. That's not to say you could walk up to them and flex them with your hands. But at full force, the spiral design in the wheels will allow for additional shock support.

Robert Pearlman
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Posts: 27327
From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 11-04-2002 11:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I almost forgot about these photographs -- they aren't from JPL but rather from the World Space Congress, where LEGO unveiled a 1-to-1 scale model of the MER made completely of (you guessed it) LEGOs! Believe it or not, this model (which according to my friend at JPL isn't too far off from the real deal [see above]) was built with primarily only a NASA animation for reference.

Want to build your own? First you need to get 90,000 LEGO blocks...

tegwilym
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Posts: 2284
From: Renton, WA USA
Registered: Jan 2000

posted 11-05-2002 03:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for tegwilym   Click Here to Email tegwilym     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Nice!
Where do I apply for a job as a LEGO model builder?

I can start tomorrow!

Tom

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