Mars on Earth 2004

Drilling Automation for Mars Exploration (DAME) Project

Participants: NASA Ames Research Center, Honeybee, Georgia Tech, Mars Institute

Principal Investigator: Dr. Brian Glass, NASA Ames Research Center

DAME Images from 2004 (Half way down page)

The Drilling Automation for Mars Exploration (DAME) project, is developing automation for future Mars (or other planetary) drills. This summer, our fault diagnosis and artificial intelligence software will be run with the Mars-prototype drill. It should be exciting... the current drill automation architecture being developed by DAME will include downhole diagnosis of different rock and ice strata, bit wear detection, and dynamic replanning capabilities when unexpected failures or drilling conditions are discovered. DAME comprises the efforts of NASA, Honeybee, Georgia Tech and the Mars Institute, with Dr. Pascal Lee leading the latter for field test support and data analysis.

DAME Project Drill

The Mars-prototype (lightweight, no lubricants, low power) drill, designed and built by Honeybee Robotics that will be tested in the regolith-like fallback breccia inside Haughton Crater, drilling into ice layers and permafrost as one might expect to find near the surface in Martian polar regions. Dr. Brian Glass earlier performed a magnetic survey of the crater and its surrounding area in order to learn Haughton's geophysical signature -- that work will continue as well this summer, with some gravity measurements.

Another aspect of the drill tests is that in order to send a drill to Mars to look for ice, water, or life, lightspeed delays mean that it must be fully automated, capable of untended operations. But drilling on Earth is hard -- an art form more than an engineering discipline. Human operators on Earth listen and feel drill string vibrations coming from kilometers underground. Abundant mass and energy make it possible for terrestrial oil and gas drilling to employ brute-force approaches to failure recovery and system performance issues. But we can't throw lots of mass and power at robotic Mars missions. Space drilling will then require intelligent and autonomous systems for robotic exploration and to support human exploration. Dr. Sathya Hanagud will lead a group from Georgia Tech who are responsible for sensing and reacting to drill vibrations.

DAME Project Drill