Visitors to the Dynamic Earth Science Centre in Greater Sudbury, Ontario, Canada were invited to operate Exploration Uplink robots located at the NASA RESOLVE field test site in Pu’u hawaihini valley on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.

Sponsored by NORCAT, the science center day saw 157 visitors, 12 Earth Explorer/Robotics program members, and 88 people had the opportunity to participate in an underground tour. Both kids and adults alike frequently made comments about the event being ‘so cool’.

Starting in the morning (8am Hawaii time, 2pm in Sudbury), young explorers in the Science Centre’s Mining Command Centre were able to look on as the RESOLVE mission rover rolled out from its overnight berthing space.

Later in the day, students used the two small robots to observe each other, experimenting with the simulated lunar communications link; wherein the results of the commands sent to the robots are not see by the operators until a little over three seconds after they have been sent. The delay between command and response by the rovers serves to emphasize the delay and unreliable nature of earth to moon communications.

In addition, a video stream included in the RESOLVE mission Ustream feed allowed a third person view of both robots as they continued their exploration of a section of the valley. Greater Sudbury is also home to NORCAT, the organization responsible for building the RESOLVE sample acquisition system (drill and sample parsing), so the friends and families of those who contributed to the mission were able to visit the field test site virtually to see the handy-work of their hometown team in action.

Meanwhile, NLSI staff were onsite at several outreach events that took place in classrooms in Hilo, Hawaii. Kids will be kids, and it is often imagination that first enthuses a person to work toward discovery. To our pleasant surprise, the students ended up proudly showing off their knowledge to each other, whether it was about robotic exploration in space or how to use the web page to control the rover on Mauna Kea. When asked “Who likes science?” and, “Who likes math?” the kids responded with both hands up and then both feet up.

Students in both classrooms picked a lot of things up. They learned that we send robots into frontiers in space in part to mitigate the danger to humans. They learned that you can’t breathe on the Moon or Mars, but you can jump higher. They learned that robots may one day excavate resources that will further human exploration and habitation in these inhospitable environments. They learned that light travels faster than sound, but that light itself isn’t instantaneous, and that makes driving a rover on other worlds challenging. But perhaps their most important lesson was one they didn’t explicitly say but was clearly evident in their enthusiasm in taking 1 minute turns to drive the rover: they learned that science, exploration, and engineering were fun, cool, and possible!

RESOLVE (Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatiles Extraction) is a lunar prospecting mission exploring lunar regolith in and around permanently shadowed polar regions of the moon. It is designed to verify the presence of water and other volatiles on the lunar surface. For more information, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/ground/resolverover.html

The Dynamic Earth Science Center is the 7th largest science center in Canada. The sister facility, Science North, is the second largest in Canada. Dynamic Earth is focused on earth sciences and includes an underground mine tour, mining command center, object and multimedia theaters, kids summer camps and the Big Nickel, a 30 foot replica of a 1951 Canadian nickel. For more information, visit: www.sciencenorth.ca/

Exploration Uplink is an outreach project bringing hands-on Field Science and Space Exploration into the classroom using NASA telerobotic systems. The experience allows students to participate in NASA Exploration and encourages the next generation to pursue careers in science, technology, math, and engineering. For more information visit: http://lunarscience.nasa.gov/explorationuplink/

Posted by: Soderman/NLSI Staff
Source: NLSI/NORCAT teams

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