Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Working in a cold desert environment

After our firehose of information at JPL, I spent a week traveling to New York to talk about the Moon and Lunar exploration at the gracious invitaiton of the folks at the American Museum of Natural History. I went to the American Museum and the Hayden (as it was knowm back then) planetarium frequently while growing up and I remember the huge dioramas of New York State mammals fondly. It was a great pleasure and privilege for me to be invited there professionally. I also got to spend Thanksgiving day in Albany with my family, which was really great, fun, and relaxing.

Now that I'm back home, in the cold, clear air among the desert rocks of New Mexico, I'm in a Martian state of mind. This week, I'm setting up my office to be a remote operations station for the rovers. As one might expect, JPL takes a lot of precautions to safeguard data and computers, so there is some work setting that up correctly. In addition, because the MER mission was only expected to last 90 days, there waasn't a lot of incentive to make software as streamlined or user-friendly as it might be otherwise, and system updates have come and gone. Once you get familiar with all the tools, they're surprisingly intuitive, but this week is dedicated to really digging in, listening every day to the process end-to-end, figuring out where things reside and how to generate files. It's the really unglamorous side of spacecraft operations, but it's unexpectedly satisfying to come out at the end of the day with a plan to radiate to the spacecraft that sets you up for another day of potential discovery.

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