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It's just about that time of year again: the Desert RATS are preparing for their field mission out in the Arizona desert, testing hardware and mission concepts for future trips to the Moon or Mars.We wrote about their work last September, when they focused on hard-testing their Lunar Electric Rover (LER) and doing EVAs by slipping through the "suitports." Naturally, this year will cover many of the same systems, including the Tri-ATHLETEs--heavy-lift rovers, to solve problems discovered in previous tests. They'll also focus not just on the hardware issues, but how everything (including the people) work together on a simulated mission. Image of Desert RATS crew member performing an EVA on August 13, 2010, posted to the team's Twitter feed.Four crew members will spend the two-week desert mission living in the two rovers, or Space Exploration Vehicles. They'll navigate over difficult terrain, test communication systems and geology collection and in-field analysis tools, and remote-control the two Tri-ATHLETEs from Arizona and Houston.Although the "real" mission starts August 31 and runs through September 15, the crew is already out there doing prep work -- you can follow their actions and observations on Twitter and view some incredible images on Flickr (this photo from last year is still one of my favorites). This year they even held a public vote to decide where in the vast Arizona desert the RATS (that's Research and Technology Studies) should go. The poll closed August 8 and you can view panoramic photos from the winning site here.
os99, desert-rats, nasa
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