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Mars Drill
07.25.06
 
A Mars prototype drill was evaluated at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., before shipment to Haughton Crater on Devon Island in Canada's Nunavut Territory north of Ontario and Quebec. The device will bore into permafrost and broken rock in the crater in the Canadian arctic from July 14 to July 29, 2006, with a final demonstration planned for July 27 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. CDT. NASA scientists say that this may be the first time automation will have completely controlled a drill rig. During the field exercise, the researchers' main objective is to evaluate the artificial intelligence software that will control the rig, not other aspects of Mars drilling such as sample analysis and robotics design.

marsdrill team with rainbow The DAME test site inside Haughton Crater, on Devon Island.
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drilling The DAME test site inside Haughton Crater, on Devon Island.
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marsdrill team The DAME test site inside Haughton Crater, on Devon Island.
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drill camp The DAME test site sits inside Haughton Crater, on Devon Island, on a thick layer of grey fallback breccia. This impact-generated material has a structure and texture similar to the regolith found on the surface of the Moon and Mars. Here, the dome tent houses the drill, with a generator on the left and communications antenna on the right.
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DAME drilling The DAME drill is made for NASA by Honeybee Robotics in Manhattan, who also built the Rock Abrasion Tool on the current Mars Exploration Rovers. The summer field tests on Devon Island are to validate and demonstrate automated, hands-off software control of this planetary-prototype drill. The two lasers on the stand in the foreground are laser vibrometers, which (without touching the rotating shaft) measure the movements and vibration patterns of the drill in motion.
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icy regolith The computer controlling the DAME drill may select either a cutting bit for softer frozen material, or change to a coring bit when harder rocks or ice is encountered. Here, the coring bit is shown to be mostly full of ice after a bit swap. The combination of permafrost and impact rocks make the Haughton site arguably the best analog site in the world for testing drills intended for icy regolith on Mars or the lunar poles. Automation is required for drilling on Mars because of lightspeed delays.
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core with ice Cores from drilling at the DAME site show embedded ice laters in the regolith-like breccia. The 2007 Mars Phoenix mission hopes to find ice layers in the regolith in high Martian latitudes, using a scoop to scrape down to ice below the surface.
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HMP base The Haughton-Mars Project research station in the High Arctic is used cooperatively by NASA and Canadian Space Agency projects. The HMP base shown here provides logistics and support at the Haughton Crater field test and analog science site, including the DAME drilling automation tests this year. Dr. Pascal Lee is the principal investigator with the Mars Institute, who operates the HMP base for CSA and NASA.
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mars drill Mars drill prototype device at NASA Ames Research Center.
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mars drill Mars drill prototype device at NASA Ames Research Center.
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mars drill Mars drill prototype device at NASA Ames Research Center.
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mars drill Mars drill prototype device at NASA Ames Research Center.
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mars drill Mars drill prototype device at NASA Ames Research Center.
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mars drill equipment Mars drill prototype device at NASA Ames Research Center.
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drill sample Mars drill prototype device at NASA Ames Research Center.
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mars drill Mars drill prototype device at NASA Ames Research Center.
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mars drill researcher Brian Glass, is a scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, located in California's Silicon Valley and the principal investigator for the Drilling Automation for Mars Exploration (DAME) project. The DAME project team is developing drill automation not only for a Mars drill, but also for other planetary drills.
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Image Credit: NASA/Ames