Bill Clancey, Chief Scientist for Human-Centered Computing at Code TI, presented an invited lecture titled “Voyages of Scientific Discovery with the Mars Exploration Rovers,” at The Commonwealth Club of San Francisco on February 27, 2012. The event was sold out with about 100 attending.
For more than eight years, scientists have been doing fieldwork on Mars, the first overland investigation of another planet. Working through programmed robotic laboratories, called the Mars Exploration Rovers, they have a virtual experience of being on Mars. The Spirit and Opportunity Rover teams have driven over 25 miles, taken over two hundred thousand photographs, analyzed the chemistry of the terrain, and inspected rocks by grinding them and taking microscopic images. The talk addressed how working remotely through a robotic laboratory changes the nature of field science, and how it changes the scientists. A cognitive scientist with privileged access to mission operations, Clancey explains that “robotic geologists” are not just the rovers, but the scientists who have imaginatively projected themselves into the body of the machine.
BACKGROUND: The Commonwealth Club of California is the nation’s oldest and largest public affairs forum. It brings over 400 annual events on topics ranging across politics, culture, society, and the economy to 15,000 members. The Club’s weekly radio broadcast—the oldest in the U.S. (dating back to 1924)—is carried across the nation. The mission of the Science & Technology member-led Forum is to explore visions for the future. For upcoming and archived programs, see the Forum web site.
NASA PROGRAM FUNDING: MER Mission Project (2004); NASA History Division (ROSES 2007)
COLLABORATORS: Chisako Ress, Science & Technology Forum Chair
Contact: William J. Clancey