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Polish robots in race for Mars

18 May 2011 /  #1
Copernicus, Scorpio and Magma 2 are three Polish robots taking part in the International University Rover Challenge, a competition for college students to design and build the next generation of Mars exploration rovers. The three rovers from Poland are the only robots from Europe that qualified for the challenge.

The 2011 Mars Society's University Rover Challenge (URC) will be held between 2 and 4 June 2-4 at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah.
Teams and their rovers will compete in four events: an equipment servicing task, a site survey task, a sample return task and an emergency navigation task that will require rovers to search for an astronaut who is lost or injured.

OP boletus  
18 May 2011 /  #2
Just to put it in historical perspective:

Mirosław Hermaszewski (born September 15, 1941), is a retired Polish Air Force officer. He became the first (and to this day remains the only) Pole in space when he flew aboard the Soyuz 30 spacecraft in 1978.


And there is much more. You guys should get off your video games from time to time and start reading serious stuff, such as Polish astronomy is a deadly serious business. See for example this:

Located in Chile a detector of the Polish project "Pi of the Sky" performed a series of photographs of four bright planets of the Solar System. Extremely rare conjunction of Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter is now clearly visible in the southern hemisphere, before sunrise.

The three inner planets of our solar system and the gas giant, Jupiter, are close to each other in the sky in April and May this year. Their conjunction is difficult to observe from the northern hemisphere, but it is easy to observe from the southern latitudes - every night.

Did you know anything about it? Noooo... Poland cannot into space, he-he-he.
Let me tell you boys and girls. Poland has invested in several international projects and Chile is one of the places to go - having extremely clear sky and no light pollution. More about it later...

  • Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter on a photograph taken by the detector of the "Pi of the S
OP boletus  
18 May 2011 /  #3
Las Campagnas Observatory

Las Campanas Observatory is an astronomical observatory owned and operated by the Carnegie Institution for Science. The headquarters is located in La Serena, Chile 29.91041°S 71.24076°W and the observatory is about 100 km to the northeast.

The Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment or OGLE is a Polish astronomical project based at the University of Warsaw that is chiefly concerned with discovering dark matter using the microlensing technique.

Poland cannot into space? Duh!

Interesting link to the Polish OGLE project:

And here is a link to a beautiful breathtaking photo gallery from Las Campanas Observatory, Chile

Mars Desert Research Station
Hanksville, Utah,

Photos from the day one of the competitions are here:

The Challenge:
Design and build the next generation of Mars rovers that will one day work alongside human explorers in the field.

Nine teams: two from Canada, three from Poland, four from USA
4 Jun 2011 /  #4
The Polish scientists face a big task, as the current US Mar's rovers are still working (at least one is) and they have far exceeded their 'life expectancy'.
4 Jun 2011 /  #5
Not surpising when Lunar Rovers were invented by Polish Mieczyslaw Bekker.
OP boletus  
5 Jun 2011 /  #6
Translated by boletus:
From "Scorpio" (team Wrocław) blog,

Last day of Challenge
It is 14:26, we returned to our hostel six hours ago. All went pretty well for us today. Not many revelations but we participated in both tasks and we will collect some points! :) We were so close to collect many more points but I will describe today's tasks later.

The Scorpio's blogger describes in detail two first challenges that took place yesterday. Their rover completely failed on the manipulator arm task: firstly they had so many failures with their servo-mechanism that they gave up on the task. Nevertheless, they tried it later just for fun and they realized that their manipulator was not precise enough for that task.

However, the exceeded in task #1: "Collecting and returning a sample likely to contain photosynthetic bacteria, other colonies of bacteria, or other organisms such as lichens.".

In the course of packing one of the organizers began talking with me and asked if we had participated in any European competitions and he said that we have done here an excellent job and he was impressed. I said that it was our debut and had never competed before. He said he was very happy to see us here. Another person asked me whether Wroclaw and Warsaw are the same...


Oh, one more thing: all three Polish teams cooperate and help each other if they can.
5 Jun 2011 /  #7
Poland's Mars rover world's best

A Polish design team from Białystok's University of Technology has won a competition for the best Mars rover, beating competitors from Oregon State University and Ontario's York University. The trials were held at a simulated Mars base in the deserts of Utah.
OP boletus  
5 Jun 2011 /  #8
So, this is it! The Polish team from Białystok University of Technology won the University Rover Challenge 2011. Congratulations!
Their rover "Magma2" was the lightest, simplest and the most innovative of all the competing units, including a so-called hexacopter - a flying element used for airborne observation of the terrain. Experience counts: the Białystok-Toruń team has already competed last year at Utah and took the third position with their first version of "Magma".

2. York University, Toronto, Canada
3. Oregon State University, USA
4. "Scorpio", Wrocław Technical University
5. ?
6. "Copernicus", UMK Toruń

The Polish scientists face a big task, as the current US Mar's rovers are still working (at least one is) and they have far exceeded their 'life expectancy'.

Not really. "Spirit No More: NASA Bids Mars Rover a Final Goodbye"

But roving on Mars is not easy, and eventually Spirit found some sand that left it stranded. Since the JPL AAA card does not work on Mars, the rover had, in essence, dug its own grave. It was just a matter of time that the batteries would run down for lack of juice from the photovoltaic solar cells.

The Mars Society officially announced the result of the URC competitions,

An excerpt follows:

Magma2 was the first European team to win URC. Also they were the first team to ever deploy an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) as part of the competition. Coupled with a rover constructed primarily of clear polycarbonate that made it lightweight, the Bialystok team impressed the judges and navigated the tasks like seasoned professionals. It wasn't just parlor tricks that won the event for Magma2. The resounding quality of their rover from top to bottom was critical to their success.

They also announced that a full breakdown of the events and points, as well as photos and videos of the teams will be posted on their website over the coming days.

An in-depth analysis will also be presented at the Fourteenth Annual International Mars Society Convention in Dallas, Texas, August 4-7, 2011.

5 Jun 2011 /  #9
Remember for in the 80s they were saying that by this time we'd be living on Mars, what a crock of ****.
OP boletus  
9 Jun 2011 /  #10
The final scores of URC 2011 are tabulated in five categories and posted here. I will just show the totals (out of maximum 500 points: 5 tasks x 100 points each):

1. Białystok University of Technology - 411.3
2. York University - 364.8
3. Oregon State University - 348.2
4. Wrocław University of Technology - 274.2
5. Brigham Young University - 214.2
6. University of Nicolaus Copernicus in Torun - 202.7
7. University of Michigan - 185.7
8. University of Waterloo - 163.5

Once again - Congratulation Białystok, outstanding job.
9 Jun 2011 /  #11
Boletus, as I read in another thread, the 4th of the universities in your list looks like UPenn in '95. I can only not find UPenn in that list ;-)
OP boletus  
9 Jun 2011 /  #12
Sorry Antek, I am confused. UPenn in '95? URC were inaugurated just in 2007. Please explain.
9 Jun 2011 /  #13
I have shown a picture of a computer lab at PWr in one of threads. A graduate of UPenn jeered the class reminded him the looks of similar lab at his Uni in '95 (regardless the flatscreens were not available at that time except notebooks, which he didn't mention). With great pleasure, I notice the fourth place of PWr in the URC contest and fail to see any presence of UPenn there.

Maybe UPenn cannot in space.
OP boletus  
9 Jun 2011 /  #14
Oh yes, I got it. According to wikipedia the results of URC 2007 were as follows:
1. University of Nevada
2. Brigham Young University
3. University of California, Los Angeles
4. Pennsylvania State University

So yes, Pennsylvania was there in 2007. Maybe they did not qualify for 2011, or maybe they are just bored. But notice BYU is still there. According to some interview, the teams are not there forever - they form and fall apart. You should know that as a musician. :-) But - as you know - success breeds success, so I am sure new generation of young people in Poland is as eager as the current one to take the challenge.

And I am really pleased that the new universities, such as Białystok, may mean something. I used to have very low (and believe me - quite justified) opinion on some such universities, long time ago.
9 Jun 2011 /  #15
Nine teams: two from Canada, three from Poland, four from USA

Yep. I saw it on the news yesterday(Polish news of course). It's pretty cool. btw, I luv your passion :)
9 Jun 2011 /  #16
Another score for Poland..... We have the strongest man in the world, the Pope, the man who invented modern astronomy, and now the future of space exploration... in your face Russia, U.K., and Germany. Anyone who says Polish people are dumb should look at this.
9 Jun 2011 /  #17
We have the strongest man in the world

No longer. He's also not so much of a badass anymore, what with losing two of his last three fights.

the Pope

He's German, dumbass.

the man who invented modern astronomy, and now the future of space exploration... in your face Russia, U.K., and Germany. Anyone who says Polish people are dumb should look at this.

You're certainly dumb if you think the Pope is Polish.

Anyway, less of the "we", traitor.
9 Jun 2011 /  #18
Galileo Galilei is generally (and rightly) regarded as father modern astronomy. Maybe not in Poland but everywhere else.
OP boletus  
9 Jun 2011 /  #19
Galileo Galilei was born in 1564 - 21 years after the death of Copernicus in 1543. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations, and support for Copernicanism.

So your point is?

Other than that he was a renaissance man: a mathematician, physicist, philosopher, engineer. So was his contemporary Johannes Kepler, with whom Galileo Galilei had argued about ties and elliptical orbits of planets. Kepler was right, Galileo was wrong on this subject. Kepler's best known works are "Astronomia nova, Harmonices Mundi, and Epitome of Copernican Astronomy. These works also provided one of the foundations for Isaac Newton's theory of universal gravitation.

What impresses me most in Galileo works is something, which is mostly ignored by hunters of encyclopaedic tidbits:

Galileo put forward the basic principle of relativity, that the laws of physics are the same in any system that is moving at a constant speed in a straight line, regardless of its particular speed or direction. Hence, there is no absolute motion or absolute rest. This principle provided the basic framework for Newton's laws of motion and is central to Einstein's special theory of relativity.

The man had profound understanding of classical notion of space and time.

But all those achievements of Galileo, Kepler and Newton do not take away the importance of Copernicus' epochal book, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium -

often regarded as the starting point of modern astronomy and the defining epiphany that began the scientific revolution. His heliocentric model, with the Sun at the center of the universe, demonstrated that the observed motions of celestial objects can be explained without putting Earth at rest in the center of the universe.

All those quotes are available in wikipedia, or somewhere else - so before you open your mouth with some trivial nonsense - study the subject first.
9 Jun 2011 /  #20
Remember for in the 80s they were saying that by this time we'd be living on Mars, what a crock of ****.

Lol! Yeah, and where the hell is my flying car?!
OP boletus  
9 Jun 2011 /  #21
t's pretty cool. btw, I luv your passion :)

Passion is contagious. I look at these young men and women and I cannot stop appreciating their passion and expertise. So I report it here. And since I know a bit about certain subjects governing the design of their rovers: programming, basics of manipulators, communication - my appreciation grows even higher.
OP boletus  
9 Jun 2011 /  #22
On June 1, Prime Minister Donald Tusk took part in the opening of the first astro-base, a mini astronomical observatory, at the junior high school of Gniewkowo in Kujawsko - Pomorskie. The idea of creating school-based mini observatories was born in 2008. Construction began in the second half of 2010. Before the end of September this year 13 more similar objects will open in Kujawsko-Pomorskie voivodship.

Each astro-base, or astrobaza in Polish, is equipped with a telescope and computer stations. Under the dome of the telescope there is a room for 12 people. All school mini observatories will be linked in a network of telescopes, so that students will be able to constantly exchange information about the observations carried out. Students will be able to photograph the sky and send pictures to other schools where they will be displayed on special, interactive tables.

The astro-bases are being constructed in 14 localities: Gniewkowo, Brodnica, Dobrzyń n. Wisłą, Golub-Dobrzyń, Gostycyn, Inowrocław, Jabłonowo Pomorskie, Kruszwica, Radziejów, Rypin, Świecie, Unisław, Zławieś Wielka and Żnin.The cost of the construction is 4.1 million zł. Funds are provided by local governments and co-financed by European Union.

translated from Polish source:

I am so impressed, especially since I received my primary education in one of those 14 places. No one would ever dream then about such things as "astrobazy" in villages or small towns.

  • All astro-bases look the same

  • Gniewkowo astro-base during opening multimedia presentation
9 Jun 2011 /  #23
So your point is?

The point is someone above is claiming that The father of astronomy is Polish - NC was my assumption. He is not GG an Italian is considered to be, and as you have said of science generally. NCs idea and evidence was literally and metaphorically revolutionary but did not give birth to astronomy.

And thanks for the little net quotes and wiki summary(though I'm sure you put them there for other lay readers), I did get my academic education without the use of Wikipedia. If you think it is trivial to believe the the Copernican revolution lead to the birth of Astronomy, well you don't, but for someone who does it is neverthless erroneous.

Maybe read the thread to see the point of the comment, instead of the classic 'face to close to the page' , display you have given. Astronomy is, after all, about the big picture.

But you're the OP so you can say 'and?' It was a tidbit that appears to have no context without quoting Gregorz.

This comp was an academic exercise the reality is some students from the comp may end up working on a real soloution with other postgrads probably at MIT or within NASA. It may even help with funding academia in Poland( I think is the real impetus for entering) This won't go into space there are new discoveries/materials that will lead to redrawing and refinements making current designs redundant by the time man can walk on Mars. The race to the moon was USSR/USA showing off tech advacement and Project management with wealth. Wasn't reaaly much pragmatic use compared to getting into space for placing sattelites. Mars, I suspect will be hailed as a 'look what the human race can achieve together' type of thing.
OP boletus  
9 Jun 2011 /  #24
instead of the classic 'face to close to the page' , display you have given

For this I apologize. I should have said it in a more subdued tone. I was irked by "world knows better than you guys with your NC". Not all of us spin nonsense about perceived superiority of a certain nation. What can I say - I ignore such posts, since responding to them pollutes any good thread.

I agree with the second part of your post since I know quite well that this is just a student exercise in passion, knowledge and innovation. But I support programs like ARC, IASC (International Astronomical Search Collaboration) or even programs of building those mini school-based observatories in Poland because they stimulate interest in certain branches of science and engineering. Kids from all other the words, including those from the Copernicus city of Toruń, have fun discovering and naming planetoids and asteroids - but that's the subject of another post.

Contribution of Polish Kids to discovery and naming asteroids
The International Astronomical Search Collaboration (IASC) is an educational outreach program for high schools and colleges, provided at no cost to the participating schools.

International Astronomical Search Collaboration, Discovery Hall of Fame, web page is somewhat outdated, but provides some information about naming of discovered astronomical objects:

The page shows a list of seven discoveries of asteroids, numbered and catalogued by the Minor Planet Center (Harvard). This process takes 3-5 years to complete, at which point the asteroid can be officially named.

Names are proposed to the International Astronomical Union (IAU). It is this international assembly that officially designates the names of asteroids and other minor planets in the Solar System.

There is one Polish entry:
Asteroid: 2007 GH2, Name: Not Named, School: ZSO #7, Location: Szczecin Poland

Another source suggested that the proposed name is "Szczecin". To verify it I went through a lot of noise in many web pages and finally found the IASC data discovery page:

The data below is extracted from that page.

Newly discovered objects are put on a provisional list. This means that the Minor Planet Center will assign a provisional designation number and it will stay there until confirmed some time later by some other means. The current list of Provisional Discoveries contains 396 objects, discovered since year 2006, when the program started. Five of those belong to Polish schools.

#371 - Asteroid: 2011 HT24, School: The 10th Prof. Stefan Banach School Group, Location: Toruń Poland, 2011-04-30
#374 - Asteroid: 2011 HS31, School: The 10th Prof. Stefan Banach School Group, Location: Toruń Poland, 2011-04-30
#356 - Asteroid: 2011 FX88, School: Mikołaj Kopernik High School, Location: Sierpc Poland, 2011-04-02
#349 - Asteroid: 2011 FJ49, School: The 10th Prof. Stefan Banach School Group, Location: Toruń Poland, 2011-04-02
#233 - Asteroid: 2010 MN2, School: Mikołaj Kopernik High School, Location: Sierpc Poland, 2010-06-22

The list of Numbered Discoveries, confirmed and ready to be named, is much shorter: total 21 entries. Two of them are Polish.
#21 - Asteroid: 2010 CH1, Number: 279377, Name: To be chosen, School: School: The 10th Prof. Stefan Banach School Group, Location: Toruń Poland
#11 - Asteroid: 2007 GH2, Number: 241099, Name: Szczecin, School: ZSO #7, Location: Szczecin Poland

Putting it all in some perspective: there are about 250 schools from dozen of countries involved in various IASC projects. There are some claims that the full list of Polish discoveries since 2006, when the IASC program was introduced to Poland, consists of close to 30 astronomical objects, but I could not confirm it. So let's stick to 5 + 2 facts.

2012 University Rover Challenge: May 31 - June 2, 2012, Mars Desert Research Station, Hanksville, Utah

URC Kickoff: Teams will meet at 11:00am MDT on Thursday, 31 May in the parking lot of the Whispering Sand Motel in Hanksville. After an introductory briefing, they will drive out to MDRS for a quick site tour. In the afternoon on Thursday, teams will conduct initial weigh-ins, and deliver their presentations to the judging panel. The action will continue with the field competition events on Friday and Saturday!

Ten teams participate in this year's competition: one from Poland, two from Canada, seven from USA. Poland is represented by Scorpio-2 from Wrocław University of Technology - classified last year at the fourth position.

The last year's overall winner, team Magma-2 from Białystok University of Technology, does not participate this time. They were busy during past 12 months, participating in several international exhibitions, such as Hightech Mechatronica 2012 (March/April 2012) in Netherlands. The event brought together engineers and programmers specializing in mechatronics and high-tech systems. The fair attracted over 60 exhibitors.

From Scorpio-2 diary, in Polish:

We were out of luck yesterday evening. Four of our six tires have been punctured during test drives, probably as the result of rapid and reckless driving. Unfortunately we had no replacement parts. A little bit of creativity and in few hours later the vehicle has been restored. Let us hope that this will not happen again during the competitions.

This day began with a briefing and vehicles' weighing at the vicinity of Mars Desert Research Station. Unfortunately, we exceeded the maximum weight limit, so we had to remove two middle wheels. This should not significantly affect the off-road capacity of the vehicle. By lowering the weight we can install more cameras and additional batteries, which will increase the rover's life span.

At 17.30, during the first out of five challenges, we presented our team and the project to the judges. We have very positive feelings, however, the results will not be announced until the end of the competition. Now this is time to prepare for tomorrow's jobs. We are still arming our vehicle with additional devices, which might be helpful. We are facing two tasks tomorrow: Equipment Servicing Task in the morning and Site Survey Task in the afternoon.

Before the nightfall we are going into the desert again to test all the items.

From URC facebook:
Congrats to our podium finishers at URC2012:
1. York University
2. Brigham Young University
3. Cornell University
More to follow as the staff returns from the field!

Well, no medal this time for the Poles.

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