1/24/04 (notes from Lauren): I was so relieved to finally get to JPL after the battle with snow and ice at the airports. We left single digit weather and get to sixty degree weather just in the nick or time, since a huge storm blew into Pennsylvania as we left. Once we got to JPL, security had obviously tightened, as had the parking. We flashed our ID?s and set forth on a parking spot hunt, eventually ending up on the far side of the Visitor section. After trekking down to the front security kiosk we met up with our coordinator. The press was swarming everywhere! We got our new nifty official badges and set off to find our science mentor, Dr. Sims.
Dr. Sims actually found us after we arrived in the designated ASIP office space. After visiting a bit we set off for the science area to watch the landing of Opportunity. It was surprisingly packed in the technology-filled room. People gathered all over, talking, and watching the huge countdown screens all over the room. I loved it! It felt like an airport when there are a bunch of delays?but with a positive vibe.
We found seats and waited. The velocity of the rover?s landing vehicle was unlike anything I had seen of before. In its aeroshell it hit the atmosphere and, in just a few moments, skidded to a stop. Numbers flew all over the place; people were clapping for each stage of decent. I decided not to, I didn?t want to jinx it! Then the rover was bouncing in its airbags, and after a comical bit of confusion as to whether we were stopped or not, we all bust out in cheers. Opportunity had landed!!!
Not long after the landing, people had to run off--whether to tell friends, watch the joyful press conference, or because there was now a furious pile of work to do. We too set off, but not long after found ourselves back, waiting nervously again, this time for the first images. A myriad of scientists and the lucky few ASIP teams waited for the very first pictures from Opportunity to come in.
There was dead quiet as confirmation that we were receiving pictures was mentioned. Then the room erupted! There was a fabulous outcrop not more than ten meters in front of us and it turns out we had landed in just about the smallest crater we could have hit. Everyone was thrilled!
1/25/04 (notes from Lauren): The excitement never really died, just the frenzied reporters. We were busy helping Dr. Sims all evening, but adjusting to the unique times of working on Mars can be challenging. Nonetheless it was worth it. We sat through a meeting with the gleeful scientists as they discussed the situation, and the future of the mission plans. I couldn?t ask for anymore to happen after last night, this is just too cool!
1/27/04 (notes from Lauren): I have adjusted to the funny schedules, sort of, but making distinct journal entries gets messed up when you don?t have distinct days. We worked with Viz today, a 3D visualization software, and yesterday we got to sit in another meeting. They were talking about what to name the rover?s newfound outcrop. The gravity of the events around me was overwhelming. I got to watch as they discussed what name would be immortalized by that very picture I saw two nights ago. This has just been too much. Poor Dr. Sims is so busy that we can?t follow him right now. We?re helping the Pamcam guys instead. Well, off to work!