Date of Original Version
Abstract or Description
The Atacama Desert of northern Chile may be the most lifeless place on Earth, yet where the desert meets the Pacific coastal range desiccation-tolerant micro-organisms are known to exist. The gradient of biodiversity and habitats in the Atacama’s subregions remain unexplored and are the focus of the Life in the Atacama project. To conduct this investigation, long traverses must be made across the desert with instruments for geologic and biologic measurements. In this paper we motivate the Life in the Atacama project from both astrobiologic and robotic perspectives. We focus on some of the research challenges we are facing to enable endurance navigation, resource cognizance, and long-term survivability. We conducted our first scientific investigation and technical experiments in Chile with the mobile robot Hyperion. We describe the experiments and the results of our analysis. These results give us insight into the design of an effective robotic astrobiologist and into the methods by which we will conduct scientific investigation in the next field season.