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Meet the engineers and scientists

Meet the engineers and scientists on location of the FIDO Field Test.

Learn about other sol 25 images.

Who's Who at the FIDO Field Site

While team members at JPL tried to learn as much as they could about the landscape surrounding the FIDO rover, a handful of scientists and engineers at the undisclosed field location kept things running smoothly.

Why do we need people to help? There won't be people on Mars to help the Mars Exploration Rovers.

The FIDO rover, although very similar, does not have the same capabilities that the MER rovers will. So part of the job of the people in the field is to simulate some of the experiments that the instruments can complete. Also, this is a test. The purpose is to learn how to do remote geology. To do this, scientists need a working rover - FIDO is not a flight ready model, and it is possible for things to go wrong. Folks in the field need to keep FIDO in top-notch condition during the test to maximize the scientists' experiences.

The following scientists and engineers made the FIDO field test possible. Read on to find out how each one contributed to its success.

Hrand Aghazarian

Hrand Aghazarian

Hrand Aghazarian - FIDO's Mind
While Lee moves around manning the Total Station, ensuring that FIDO's electronics are functioning correctly, Lead Software Engineer, Hrand Aghazarian spends most of his time at the field site in the computer room (aka trailer), serving as FIDO's mind.

When not in the field, Hrand and his team design the software that controls FIDO's movements. They write software programs that allow engineers to give FIDO commands like turning the wheels, moving the mast, and employing obstacle avoidance.

In the field, Hrand spends each sol monitoring the nearly 200 commands that come from scientists and engineers at JPL. His job is to review the commands and ensure that no command will inadvertently put the rover in a position where it might damage itself. However, to help scientists and engineers get familiar with remote geology, he does allow commands to go through to FIDO that may be incorrect in some way - as long as they do not pose any threat to the health of the rover.

Hrand enjoys working in the field and completes his fourth field trial with this event. "I really enjoy the people that I get to work with here. We all love our jobs, and that makes everyone's experience more fun."

Bob Anderson

Bob Anderson

Bob Anderson - FIDO's science
Lead Field Scientist

Bob Anderson knows the importance of field tests. "The purpose of the field test was to expose MER scientists to real-time rover operations and to give them a feel as to the difficultly of understanding the geology of a region from a small, mobile platform. I was there as the science lead and I chose the site. There are times during the mission when decisions have to be made that affect the science return. I was also there as the "human rat" when we needed to RAT a rock."

In a normal day during the FIDO test, Anderson spent most of his time monitoring the science objectives for each sol and making sure all the secondary data that was needed that day was available (e.g. apxs, mossbauer, and mini-TES). He also reviewed what the scientists thought was going on and tried to identify the reasons why they were making certain decisions--right or wrong.

Like all the team members, Anderson was faced with challenges on a daily basis. "My major challenge was to keep quite and not give any clues to the scientists back at JPL that might influence their decisions. It is really difficult when you are in the field to see what the scientists are doing wrong. But it was a learning experience and therefore I needed to document all aspects of the test but not influence any decisions that were made."

Anderson enjoys field tests, and looks forward to the next one. "I am a field geologist by trade, and to get away from the office and into the field is very relaxing for me...I prefer the field. I am also a teacher. It is very important that I combine both trades to the field test to help us when we get to Mars."

Mike Garrett

Mike Garrett

Mike Garrett - FIDO's Glue
Electrical Engineer

Garrett designed the circuitry of the rover that takes the info that team members from JPL send and turns it into rover movements. "If it has a wire, I deal with it," he says. In some ways, Garrett works on the "robot glue" part of the rover - the systems that hold all the pieces together. "My job is to figure out if a problem is mechanical, electrical or software oriented, and then how to make all those things work together." Garrett's favorite part of field tests is watching the scientists and engineers make FIDO drive remotely. "This time they figured out that they had mobile eyes. They really covered some distance."

Garrett enjoys his work, especially on FIDO, and smiles as he states, "I think I have the coolest job in the world!"

Albert Haldemann

Albert Haldemann

Albert Haldemann - FIDO's voice
MER Deputy Project Scientist

Haldemann was very busy during the FIDO field test. His primary responsibility during this test was to select, generate, format and deliver simulated science instrument data for the Moessbauer Spectrometer and the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer, as well as simulated remote-sensing (orbital) data relevant to the "landing ellipse" within which the test site was located. As the deputy project scientist for MER, he also provided advice to the mission manager at JPL as to what activities would be most MER-like and which would best serve the test goal of training the science team. Additionally, he helped fill in as needed for logistical tasks like moving FIDO and manning the total station unit.

Haldemann began a normal day in the field by attending the morning mission-manager tag-up. Then he would wait for sequence up-link. If the sol's uplink requested certain instrument data, he selects the correct information and formats it for delivery at the downlink time. By then it's lunchtime and after lunch he begins the process again.

Challenges in the field occurred at the beginning of the test for Haldemann. "Bob Anderson and I were a little nervous at the start of the field test when we had not yet received all the laboratory data from Germany that we use to generate the simulated science data from the field."

Everything worked out well however and Haldemann enjoyed another field test. "I do really enjoy the field tests. I have participated on both ends; in 1999 and 2000. In 2002 I was in the field, and in 2001 I was with the science team at JPL, unaware of the test location. It is striking how different the field site appears when you only have the view through the rover's eyes to work with. We really need to practice understanding how to apply field-geology lessons, learned by people walking on foot with easy access to 360 panoramas (by using eyes and turning head), to partial views of scenery, only viewable on a computer screen or poster on a flat wall. It takes practice. And that practice is intellectually fun at both JPL and the field, with an additional element of physical fun in the field, hiking around to check out the "ground truth", so we can let the science team know how correct (or not) their analyses were.

Terry Huntsberger

Terry Huntsberger

Terry Huntsberger - FIDO's technology
Chief Technologist

Terry Huntsberger is the Field Lead for the field test trials. In addition, he is the Technology Lead for the FIDO task.

Huntsberger coordinates all activities at the site, ensuring timelines for uplink/downlink activities and has the final say in rover safety issues.

Some of the challenges Huntsberger had to deal with were environmental factors such as heat, high winds, and rain. These affected satellite links and overall rover health.

Huntsberger enjoys the field tests. ""I like seeing the work that we put in for a full year all come together." He believes that field trials are the best way to test technologies in flight-relevant environments and get the timing and science interactions tuned up for the mission. "We have a very experienced field team that gives consistent performance results for such trials."

Brett Kennedy

Brett Kennedy

Brett Kennedy- FIDO's Body
Brett Kennedy is the Lead Mechanical Engineer for the FIDO rover. In some ways, he is a bit of a rover sculptor. "A lot of what we design requires more than just knowledge. We have a feel for what will work."

Brett and his team designed the wheels, the brackets that are around some of the instruments, and he physically put together a fair amount of FIDO.

In the field, Brett is usually stationed right next to FIDO as it completes its commanded maneuvers. "I watch FIDO carry out the commanded sequences, and advise that we stop any test that will put the rover in a position where it might be injured."

During this field test FIDO had only a few minor hiccups. During one sequence, a rock became jammed in the right middle wheel of the rover preventing it from driving correctly. FIDO has cleats on its wheels that grab on to a certain size of rock and carry it into the suspension system where it gets stuck. The Mars Exploration Rovers will not have cleats on their wheels and will not encounter this problem on Mars.

This was Brett's fourth field test, and he leaves feeling successful. "It's so nice to get out of the lab for a bit and see the rover successfully exercising the equipment I've helped design."

Lee Magnone

Lee Magnone

Lee Magnone - Makin' things happen
Perhaps the busiest of all was Electronic Technician Lee Magnone who has participated in three other field tests. He not only builds and tests all the electronics for the FIDO rover, but maintains all the infrastructure of the entire field site. He monitors the generators that provide much-needed power for the many computers and equipment in the operation trailer. He also ensures all the electronics in the trailer are running as expected.

During the test, Lee monitors a piece of equipment called the Total station. This station or surveyor instrument sits on a high area overlooking the rovers driving field, and tracks the rover's movements with a laser. This information is then used to verify an exact location of the rover and correlate that location with the distance the rover thinks its traveled. The computer on the rover uses wheel odometry and inertial sensors to calculate its location. Lee could often be found next to the station - being careful not to be in any of the rovers pictures - setting it up, or monitoring its progress.

Lee loves working with this rover team, "we work well together in the field, and in my day-to-day work in the lab, we also get along well. This job is great in that I work with rovers that have a practical use, and someday they'll be on another planet sending back information. Here in the field, I get to watch the rover perform. Arms deploy, mast operations, camera movement, and obstacle avoidance all designed and tested back at the lab. The scientists are great too. They get all excited about doing remote geology with the instrumentation on the rover."

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Last Updated: 31 October 2002

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