Life on Mars Hack Chat

Matteo Borri will be joining us on the Hack Chat to talk about the chlorophyll detector they built for the next Mars rover.

Friday, October 5, 2018 12:00 pm PDT Local time zone:
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Matteo Borri will be hosting the Hack Chat on Friday, October 5th, 2018 at noon PDT. 

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Matteo Borri is an Italian engineer who moved to the US in 2010. He has done work on various projects from robotics (Battlebots), AI (in 2009) and aerospace. Matteo was also one of the main engineers behind the Vampire Charger project, which was a winner of the Hackaday Prize Power Harvesting Module Challenge.

Matteo was issued a green card under the national interest waiver program and since then developed a chlorophyll spectroscope for NASA and the Mars Society for the next Mars Rover. Matteo would like to share the details of how this device works and was developed with all of us in this Hack Chat.

In this chat we will discuss:
- Chlorophyll detection
- Mars Rovers
- Various Other HW Hacks

  • Life on Mars Transcript

    Stephen Tranovich10/05/2018 at 20:01 0 comments

    Matteo Borri12:02 PM
    The first thing I'd like to do is give an update on the existing Mars rovers (with which I don't have anything to do, sadly for me). Curiosity is doing relatively well, in that they're switching from her B computer back to her A computer to deal with some memory corruption issues (they switched from A to B in 2013). Opportunity is sadly still MIA, although they're still trying to ping her; the dust storm has mostly abated (atmospheric opacity is about 110% of normal).

    My device should, if all goes well, go on the Mars 2020 rover. It has been commissioned by Dr. Chris McKay at Ames and I have to go talk to him on the 18th to find out whether I get to build the actual setup that flies to Mars or just tell people how to build it. Either way, I'm going to explain to you today how to make one, which can be done surprisingly cheaply. How's that sound?

    Stephen Tranovich12:03 PM
    Okay, let's give a big hello to @Matteo Borri! Thanks for joining us on the chat. To get started, why don't you tell us a little about yourself?

    Matteo Borri12:04 PM
    I'm from Lombardy (Northern Italy), I tell myself I'm a high-tech artisan, and I take from my grandma in that I'm a bit of a space nut.

    Stephen Tranovich12:04 PM

    Stephen Tranovich12:05 PM
    So can you start by explaining exactly what it is that you created for the next Mars rover?

    Matteo Borri12:05 PM
    So I've been doing some NASA work for free in order to uphold family honor. The rest of the time I make Android robots, lasers, and various bespoke stuff. I don't have much on but I do have a wiki, most of my work is under creative commons. The exception would be the Battlebots stuff, which is a trade secret (I built the electronics for Bronco).

    Matteo Borri12:06 PM
    I built a chlorophyll detector. Now that's not too innovative, except that it's solid state (no moving parts) and can operate at some distance from the sample.

    Matteo Borri12:06 PM
    This allows it to be mounted on the rover's belly (or on the proximal segment of an existing instrument arm) and scan the ground as it goes.

    John Hestness12:07 PM
    Cool, like for plants?

    skot joined  the room.12:07 PM

    Matteo Borri12:07 PM
    What it can basically do is tell you "no" or "maybe", and once you find a "maybe", that's when you stop and deploy the full spectroscope to get a soil sample. This reduces wear and tear on the main instrument.

    Matteo Borri12:07 PM
    Yes, exactly. It also picks up a known false positive, that being green fluorescent markers.... but if we find one of those on Mars it's also big news :)

    Matteo Borri12:08 PM
    Essentially it's a specialized spectroscope.

    Morning.Star12:08 PM
    I saw a documentary that mentioned this as a possibility. Its actually happening. :-D

    Ixbidie12:09 PM
    So it uses a laser?

    ꝺeshipu12:09 PM
    pew pew pew

    Matteo Borri12:09 PM
    Yes and if people want I'll tell you how to build one! Just don't become my competitor please, because I sell them. All my stuff is released under creative commons attribution noncommercial sharealike, so you can make one for fun or for learning, just don't sell em on ebay.

    Matteo Borri12:09 PM
    It uses a 405nm laser. You can also use a 455nm laser (they are easier to find) but it'll be less responsive.

    Stephen Tranovich12:10 PM
    That's awesome! We have a few community questions we can dive into now, and let the rest of the chat emerge. Our first question is from @Erin RobotGrrl : What redundancy systems did you have to add to your design for sending an instrument to mars?

    Ixbidie12:10 PM
    Just found this [1]. Interesting interview and nice story


    Matteo Borri12:10 PM
    You can get one on Amazon or Ebay but be sure to specify the frequency! The beam should look purple. Note that this sort of thing WILL destroy your eyeballs if they are hit directly, so be safe!

    Matteo Borri...

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Stephen Tranovich wrote 10/05/2018 at 19:36 point

Did you get to do any "bonus science" with extra weight space for your design?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Aaron Swartz Day wrote 10/05/2018 at 19:22 point

Other stuff to talk about: autonomous Antbot, strong carbon fiber in 3D printer, laser cutting w 3d printers, sound over lasers, and the new tryptophan laser you have been working on

  Are you sure? yes | no

Erin RobotGrrl wrote 10/05/2018 at 19:10 point

How did you get started?

Did you do any formal education?

What's the most important part when showcasing your work as a hacker / maker to get a job with NASA? 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Richard Hogben wrote 10/05/2018 at 19:06 point

Are you given constraints like dimensions/weight before or after the instrument is designed?

  Are you sure? yes | no

BobLooter wrote 10/05/2018 at 19:05 point

Has Quantum technology been tested on Mars Rovers yet.. I know NASA had one project they wanted a solution to where the current rover was going to communicate with Hoover type flying kite that takes 180 degree images .. I been working on solution where you can do Quantum tech inputs and expect outputs instantly.. ?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Aaron Swartz Day wrote 10/05/2018 at 19:05 point

I was wondering if NASA will rebuild the chlorophyll detecting laser, when they put it on the rover, or use one of the prototypes?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Erin RobotGrrl wrote 10/05/2018 at 18:58 point

What redundancy systems did you have to add to your design for sending an instrument to mars?

  Are you sure? yes | no

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