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. Mars Society To Hold University Mars Rover Competition

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by Staff Writers
Pasadena CA (SPX) Sep 22, 2006
The Mars Society is holding an International Mars Rover Challenge Competition. The contest, which is open to student teams from universities around the world, will require students to build prototype rovers and operate them remotely in an undeveloped desert area in the American west.

Each team will have four hours to explore the area with their rover, using its camera and other instruments to attempt to acquire as much knowledge as possible about the geology and paleontology of the desert site.

Teams will get points for each scientific discovery about the site made and correctly interpreted. In addition, during a 2 hour period, the rover will be tasked to deploy a radio repeater on the site. Teams will get points for successful deployment of the repeater, with additional points for optimal placement.

Winning the competition will thus require interdisciplinary teams including members skilled in both engineering and the natural sciences, just as actual Mars rover missions do.

The desert face off competition will occur in June at a site to be revealed later. The winners of the competition will get free transportation, hotel, and conference admission for up to 5 team members to the 10th International Mars Society Convention, which will be held August 30-September 2, 2007 at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA). At the conference banquet they will be presented with a trophy by a top level NASA official, and receive a $5,000 prize as well.

The following are the Level 1 Requirements and Guidelines for the Contest.

Level 1 Requirements and Guidelines Rover Guidelines and Competition Overview

- The rover shall be a stand-alone, off-the-grid, mobile platform. No tethers will be allowed during its operation for connection to external sources.

- The rover will be judged in the two competition events. The two tasks will be independent events. The rover is not required to be in the same configuration for both. Teams will have time to reconfigure, adjust and repair their rovers in between events. Further details for the tasks and scoring criteria will be defined in the Level 2 Requirements and Guidelines (to be released October, 2006).

Engineering Task:

Team rovers shall be required to deploy a radio repeater at a remote site. The repeater will weigh between 1 and 1.5 kg and be no more than 1 liter in volume. Rovers will start in the vicinity of the deployment range, and teams will have to decide where the ideal location to deploy the repeater will be. Teams will be judged on the suitability of the chosen location as well as the quality of the deployment.

- Scientific Task: Teams shall be required to tele-investigate a particular region to learn as much as possible about its geology and paleontology. Rovers may use cameras or other passive instruments to investigate the area, and may dig using mechanical methods. No explosives may be used. Samples must be investigated by the rover on-site, and may not be brought back to the crew for investigation.

- The maximum allowable weight of the rover when deployed for any competition event is 50 kg. This weight does not include any other hardware used to prepare or maintain the rover, any spare power sources not being used, or any additional rover configuration components not on-board for the particular competition event. Level 2 Requirements and Guidelines, when released, holds the right to establish weight restrictions for additional power sources, alternate configuration components, and maintenance tools.

- The rover is not required to be autonomous. However it will have to be operated remotely by a team which will not be able to view the rover on the site or the site itself directly. Instead, the rover will have to be commanded by the team using a radio link, with information needed for guiding the rover acquired by the rover's own cameras and transmitted to them by radio. There will be no time delay in communications, as the contest is based on the assumption that the rovers in question are telerobots, being operated by astronauts on or orbiting Mars.

Team Management

- Teams shall be required to track all finances as related to this project. The maximum allowable cash budget to be spent on the project is $10,000, which shall include money spent on parts and components, but not tools, volunteer labor time, or travel expenses. Teams may acquire in-kind donations of equipment. Such donations do not count against the cash budget. (Further clarification shall be provided in the Level 2 Requirements and Guidelines). Teams may be required to submit receipts as proof of budget upon request. Corporate sponsorship is encouraged.

- There will be one division of competition open to both graduate and undergraduate students.

Logistics Further details pertaining to the competition logistics will be released in the Level 1 Requirements and Guidelines.

Schedule

September, 2006 - Level 1 Requirements and Guidelines (this document) will be released in mid September

October, 2006 - Level 2 Requirements and Guidelines will be released.

November 15, 2006 - Indication of Interest deadline for teams.

January 26, 2007 - Announcement of Challenge competition dates and location.

February 16, 2007 - Indication of Participation deadline for teams.

Early June, 2007 - Desert Competition to take place.

Questions about the International Mars Rover Challenge can be directed to Kevin Sloan
kevin at kfsloan.com

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Managing Mars Missions
Moffett Field (SPX) Sep 22, 2006
Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program, spoke at the recent Viking anniversary celebration. In part two of this edited transcript, Meyer provides an overview of upcoming martian missions. Like the Viking mission thirty years ago, these future missions all aim to improve our understanding of the Red Planet and its potential for life.

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