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?
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?
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.
So can you start by explaining exactly what it is that you created for the next Mars rover?
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 hackaday.io 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).
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.
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.
Cool, like for plants?
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.
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 :)
Essentially it's a specialized spectroscope.
I saw a documentary that mentioned this as a possibility. Its actually happening. :-D
So it uses a laser?
pew pew pew
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.
It uses a 405nm laser. You can also use a 455nm laser (they are easier to find) but it'll be less responsive.
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?
Just found this . Interesting interview and nice story
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!
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