First swim of the robot

November 4, 2009

After many hiccups and delays, we finally got the vehicle to go down the melt-hole into the lake and performed preliminary navigation testing today. We had planned to do this in the morning, but the robot went down about 3 m down the melt-hole and got stuck.  A fish-eye camera showed that the robot was sitting on an ice-ledge in the melt-hole.  We managed to nudge the robot back up. Bill geared up and dived into the melt-hole and used an ice-axe to chip away the ice. Finally, in late evening, we were able to take the robot down the melt-hole into the lake and test our navigation systems. They all worked as expected. We will perform more exhaustive testing and instrument calibration runs tomorrow.

Below are some photos from yesterday.


Bill with a big chunk of ice that we melted after Vickie's input, from what she saw during her dive. Getting the melt-hole right has proven very difficult this year.


We use a fiber-optic cable for communications between our mission-control computers in the bot-house and the robot's onboard computer. This year's exploration missions are longer than last year's. Hence, we bought a new fibre-optic cable. We had some connectors built for the cable by a guy at McMurdo. When the cable reached the bot-house yesterday, we foudn that it would not transmit light from end to the other. This was a big issue because this meant that the communications would not work. After using some diagnostic tool, we finally figures out that one connector was bad. This connector was removed and a new one made. Bart, Kristof, and Chris along with the tech guy from McMurdo.


Second dunk of robot with syntactic foam on. The bouyancy is adjusted manually so that it is neutrally bouyancy by adding/removing small lead weights.


Kristof was using a makeshift wooden log to hook and unhook the bot from the gantry and got a large splinter from it in his hand. Bart helped him get it out.