It’s less than a week until we’re leaving for Chile, and we’re making final preparations.
We’ll be there for about two weeks supporting the “Life in the Atacama” (LITA) project. The eventual goal of that project is for Carnegie Mellon’s Zoe rover to make a long traverse of the region, picking up and analyzing samples along the way. This year, the rover stays at home while the team scouts the region. The team will be adding a lot of new capability to the rover, and we’re making sure the new things we’re designing are going to be ready for this environment. Kris and I will be testing out drill bits, augers, and sample handling equipment to get a firsthand look at how all that interacts with both the soil. We’ll also be working with the other team members to make sure that the samples we grab are going to be suitable for their instruments. The team will also be gathering “ground truth” data from the region as a way to validate future readings from the rover and provide broader context to the samples.
Those are the goals. We’ll be traveling from the coast to an elevation of over 4000 meters, and spending a lot of time in a very sunny, very dry environment. Sometimes, we’ll be close enough to a city to buy things we might need. Other times, we won’t. So for now, we’re thinking about socks. Socks, shirts, sunscreen, sleeping bags, and how much of each to bring. Testing in the field is fun, but it’s hard enough to do without your socks letting you down.