At Scientific Blogging, Kimberley Tyree, who field-tested Mars Rovers for NASA, describes what it’s like to drive one. Read it here.
Making driving Spirit more difficult than the average rover is the fact that commands take up to twenty minutes to reach her, and as long again for the results of a drive command to be returned to Earth. (Can you imagine trying to free your 4-wheel drive on Earth with that restriction?!) Plus, due to satellite limitations, Spirit’s drivers can only communicate with her twice a day. While Spirit can be told to drive to a certain location, such as a given bearing and distance away, due to wheel slippage, obstacles or other factors, the rover may end up in a slightly different location than expected. If multi-step navigational commands are sent at one time, and the first step is off, the final result may be quite different than desired.
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