After a hectic few weeks clearing a lot of work off my plate, I'm at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where the MEr project is run. It's a real thrill and priviledge to meet the people who make the rovers work, and who make sure the rovers continue to work. I'm still pretty stunned to be a part of it all.
I and the other new scientists new to the team have spent the past two days in the amazing, high-tech MER conference room staring wide-eyed at 7 computer projected screens as the scientists, instrument engineers, and various other personnel have turned a firehose of information upon us. We are all completely overwhelmed with what it takes to run this mission successfully. We are each expected to contribute our time and talents to the mission, but have been given free rein to decide which roles we would like to fill. Personally, I am having some difficulty in choosing. I feel like a kid in a candy store, where everything looks interesting and appealing, and I want to try it all! Fortunately for all of us newbies, the rovers are in excellent health and show no signs of imminent demise, so I might get my wish to be able to sample it all.
We are also interacting every day with the daily operations people. It is nice to be able to have a real person to conect with the voices I'm been listening to on telecons and the backs of heads I see in the videoconferencing. Tonight, we had a little social event - we ended up talking a lot of shop, but also got to hear a little about other peoples' backgrounds, and drink some beer too, as geologists are wont to do when gathered together.
The rest of the week will be concentrating on hand-on experience with the daily tools of operations planning. We also will all participate in this week's end-of-sol meeting, a weekly tag-up just for the scientists to talk about science. It's where we get to present new results, share wacky ideas, argue over interpretations - the stuff we really like to do!