It’s been a busy last few days. In an exciting voyage, the Planetary Lake Lander sailed the 3 kilometers across Laguna Negra to the mooring at the base of Victoria Cascade, the location where it will stay for the next year. With Liam at the helm, the Intelligent Robotics Group tested the satellite, meteorological station, and other coms on route to, and from the mooring location. The entire voyage, installation, and return took over 8 hours.
Another milestone for the PLL team as the lander was transferred to its permanent mooring place at Victoria Cascade.
The first data has been sent to Ames, as it would in a real mission. Instead of using the Deep Space Network, however, the Lander is using orbiting communications satellites. Because we are still in monitoring mode, we have not restricted the bandwidth to mimic a real mission, and will probably continue at this level throughout the summer.
The lander is already probing the water column at a rate of one profile per hour. This is providing real-time data on the physics of the lake, where the thermocline is, and data for the biological team.
We have spotted areas of interest between 10 and 25 m depth; differences in water temperatures and in the amount of light that goes through. One hypothesis is that the water that comes into the lake from Echaurren Glacier and sinks because it is so dense to that level, and contains a lot of nutrients that support life there.
The intriguing thing is that we see the same sort of behavior 6 km away from the inlet. Could this current continue so far away from where it enters the lakes? There are interesting physical and biological implications of this hypothesis.