/Life in the Atacama

Life in the Atacama

Portrait of Life in the Atacama
Head: David Wettergreen
Contact: David Wettergreen
Associated Lab: Field Robotics Center (FRC)
Homepage
Last Project Publication Year: 2016

For the most current information, see our official project page.

Evidence suggests that the interior of the Chilean Atacama Desert, the most arid region on Earth, is also the most lifeless. Yet where the desert meets the Pacific Coastal Range desiccation-tolerant microorganisms are known to exist. In some areas of the desert interior bacteria survive in porous rock and the under the surface crust of salty soils. The gradient of biodiversity and variety of habitats of life in the Atacama’s subregions remain largely unexplored.

Robotic field investigation will bring new scientific understanding of the Atacama as a habitat for life with distinct analogies to Mars. Our goal is to make genuine discoveries about the limits of life on Earth and to generate knowledge about life in extreme environments that can be applied to future planetary missions. To conduct this investigation we have developed Robotic Astrobiology.

Field investigation over three years will use a rover to make transects of the Atacama with instruments to detect microorganisms and to characterize habitats. The rover will integrate panoramic imagers, microscopic imagers, spectrometers, as well as a drill for shallow subsurface access. Robotic considerations in addition to instrument integration include planetary-relevant localization, over-the-horizon navigation, power-cognizant planning, and science data understanding

The measurement and exploration techniques produced by this investigation combines long traverses, sampling measurements on a regional scale and detailed measurements of individual targets. When compared to the state of the art in robotic planetary exploration our approach will result in dramatic increase in the number of measurements made and data collected by rover instruments per command cycle. This result will translate into substantial productivity increases for future planetary exploration missions.

Displaying 22 Publications
Efficiently Sampling from Underlying Physical Models
Greydon Foil

PhD Thesis, Tech. Report, CMU-RI-TR-16-57, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, October, 2016
Science Autonomy for Rover Subsurface Exploration of the Atacama Desert
David Wettergreen, Greydon Foil, Padraig Michael Furlong and David R. Thompson

Journal Article, AI Magazine, Vol. 35, No. 4, October, 2014
Probabilistic Surface Classification for Rover Instrument Targeting
Greydon Foil, David R. Thompson, William Abbey and David Wettergreen

Conference Paper, IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, November, 2013
Long-Distance Autonomous Survey and Mapping in the Robotic Investigation of Life in the Atacama Desert
David Wettergreen, Michael D. Wagner, Dominic Jonak, Vijayakumar Baskaran, Matthew Deans, Stuart Heys, David Pane, Trey Smith, James Teza, David R. Thompson, Paul Tompkins and Chris Williams

Conference Paper, International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation in Space (iSAIRAS), February, 2008
Analysis of High-Efficiency Solar Cells in Mobile Robot Applications
Francisco Calderon, Rolf Allan Luders, David Wettergreen, James Teza and Andres Guesalaga

Journal Article, Journal of Solar Energy Engineering, Vol. 129, No. 3, pp. 343-346, August, 2007
Challenges to Grounding in Human-Robot Collaboration: Errors and Miscommunications in Remote Exploration Robotics
Kristen Stubbs, Pamela Hinds and David Wettergreen

Tech. Report, CMU-RI-TR-06-32, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, July, 2006
Mission-level path planning and re-planning for rover exploration
Paul Tompkins, Anthony (Tony) Stentz and David Wettergreen

Journal Article, Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Intelligent Autonomous Systems, Vol. 54, No. 2, pp. 174 - 183, February, 2006
A Sun Tracker for Planetary Analog Rovers
Matthew C. Deans, David Wettergreen and Daniel Villa

Conference Paper, 8th International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation in Space, September, 2005
Data Mining During Rover Traverse: From Images to Geologic Signatures
David R. Thompson, Trey Smith and David Wettergreen

Conference Paper, 8th International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation in Space, September, 2005
Design and Control of a Passively Steered, Dual Axle Vehicle
Michael D. Wagner, Stuart Heys, David Wettergreen, James Teza, Dimitrios (Dimi) Apostolopoulos, George A. Kantor and William (Red) L. Whittaker

Conference Paper, 8th International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation in Space, September, 2005
Second Experiments in the Robotic Investigation of Life in the Atacama Desert of Chile
David Wettergreen, Nathalie Cabrol, Vijayakumar Baskaran, Francisco Calderon, Stuart Heys, Dominic Jonak, Rolf Allan Luders, David Pane, Trey Smith, James Teza, Paul Tompkins, Daniel Villa, Chris Williams and Michael D. Wagner

Conference Paper, 8th International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Automation in Space, September, 2005
Multiple-Object Detection in Natural Scenes with Multiple-View Expectation Maximization Clustering
David R. Thompson and David Wettergreen

Conference Paper, International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS '05), pp. 448 - 453, August, 2005
First Experiments in the Robotic Investigation of Life in the Atacama Desert of Chile
David Wettergreen, Nathalie Cabrol, James Teza, Paul Tompkins, Christopher Urmson, Vandi Verma, Michael D. Wagner and William (Red) L. Whittaker

Conference Paper, International Conference on Robotics and Automation, April, 2005
Fluorescence Imager for Biological Imaging in Daylight
Shmuel Weinstein, David Pane, Lauren A. Ernst, Edwin Minkley, Fred Lanni, David Wettergreen, Michael D. Wagner, Stuart Heys, James Teza and Alan Waggoner

Conference Paper, Lunar and Planetary Science Conference XXXVI, March, 2005
Life in the Atacama ?Year 2: Geologic Reconnaissance Through Long-Range Roving and Implications on the Search for Life
James M. Dohm, Nathalie A. Cabrol, Edmond A. Grin, Jeffrey Moersch, Guillermo Chong Diaz, Charles Cockell, Peter Coppin, Gregory Fisher, Andrew N. Hock, Lucia Marinangeli, Edwin Minkley, G. G. Ori, Jennifer L. Piatek, Kim Warren-Rhodes, Shmuel Weinstein, Michael Wyatt, Trey Smith, Michael D. Wagner, Kristen Stubbs, Geb Thomas and Justin Glasgow

Conference Paper, Lunar and Planetary Science Conference XXXVI, March, 2005
Robotic Technologies for Surveying Habitats and Seeking Evidence of Life: Results from the 2004 Field Experiments of the ?ife in the Atacama?Project
David Wettergreen, Nathalie Cabrol, William (Red) L. Whittaker, Guillermo Chong Diaz, Francisco Calderon, Stuart Heys, Dominic Jonak, Rolf Allan Luders, Jeffrey Moersch, David Pane, Marion Smith, Kristen Stubbs, James Teza, Paul Tompkins, Daniel Villa, Chris Williams, Michael D. Wagner, Alan Waggoner, Shmuel Weinstein and Michael Wyatt

Conference Paper, Lunar and Planetary Science Conference XXXVI, March, 2005
Searching for Life with Rovers: Exploration Methods and Science Results from the 2004 Field Campaign of the “Life in the Atacama” Project and Applications to Future Mars Missions
Nathalie A. Cabrol, David Wettergreen, William (Red) L. Whittaker, Edmond A. Grin, Jeffrey Moersch, Guillermo Chong Diaz, Charles Cockell, Peter Coppin, James M. Dohm, Gregory Fisher, Andrew N. Hock, Lucia Marinangeli, Edwin Minkley, G. G. Ori, Jennifer Piatek, Alan Waggoner, Kim Warren-Rhodes, Shmuel Weinstein, Michael Wyatt, Francisco Calderon, Stuart Heys, Dominic Jonak, Rolf Allan Luders, David Pane, Trey Smith, Kristen Stubbs, James Teza, Paul Tompkins, Daniel Villa, Chris Williams, Michael D. Wagner, Geb Thomas and Justin Glasgow

Conference Paper, Lunar and Planetary Science Conference XXXVI, March, 2005
Spectroscopic Results from the Life in the Atacama (LITA) Project 2004 Field Season
Jennifer L. Piatek, Jeffrey E. Moersch, Michael Wyatt, Michael Rampey, Nathalie A. Cabrol, David Wettergreen, William (Red) L. Whittaker, Edmond A. Grin, Guillermo Chong Diaz, Charles Cockell, Peter Coppin, James M. Dohm, Gregory Fisher, Andrew N. Hock, Lucia Marinangeli, Edwin Minkley, G. G. Ori, Alan Waggoner, Kim Warren-Rhodes, Shmuel Weinstein, Dimitrios (Dimi) Apostolopoulos, Trey Smith, Michael D. Wagner, Kristen Stubbs, Geb Thomas and Justin Glasgow

Conference Paper, Lunar and Planetary Science Conference XXXVI, March, 2005
Use of a Novel Rover-mounted Fluorescence Imager and Fluorescent Probes to Detect Biological Material in the Atacama Desert in Daylight
Shmuel Weinstein, David Pane, Kim Warren-Rhodes, Charles Cockell, Lauren A. Ernst, Edwin Minkley, Gregory Fisher, Sujata Emani, David Wettergreen, Michael D. Wagner, Nathalie Cabrol and Alan Waggoner

Conference Paper, Lunar and Planetary Science Conference XXXVI, March, 2005
Using Near Real-time Mission Data for Education and Public Outreach: Strategies from the Life in the Atacama E/PO Report
Eben Myers, Peter Coppin, Michael D. Wagner, Karl Fischer, Dan Luisa Lu, Ron McCloskey, David Seneker, Nathalie Cabrol, David Wettergreen and Alan Waggoner

Conference Paper, Lunar and Planetary Science Conference XXXVI, March, 2005
Sun-Synchronous Robotic Exploration: Technical Description and Field Experimentation
David Wettergreen, Paul Tompkins, Christopher Urmson, Michael D. Wagner and William (Red) L. Whittaker

Journal Article, The International Journal of Robotics Research, Vol. 24, No. 1, January, 2005
Science Autonomy in the Atacama
Trey Smith

Workshop Paper, Proc. of ICML 2003 Workshop on Machine Learning Technologies for Autonomous Space Applications, January, 2003

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