02/25/04: When we arrived at JPL today the first thing we did is get to work on our data collection activity. We found out that there wasn?t quite as much information in it as Dr. Arvidson realized he needed, so he asked us to go back through and not only list the images and the sequence in which they were taken, but he asked us to put the drive sequence for all of the sols in as well. Mrs. Gregory was kind enough to go through SAP (Science Activity Planner) and find them for us while we were in the process of finishing what we had so far. It is getting really exciting now because we are getting more comfortable around the scientists we are working with, but at the same time it is getting somewhat sad to think that we are now past the midpoint of our stay here. It is incredible how nice everyone is. It really is almost like being at home. The scientists are trying to teach us what they know, and they are having fun doing it. We think they enjoy talking to people from ?Earth? who have an interest in what they are doing.
Today we were also invited to lunch by one of the engineers. It is really cool because we not only have the experience of working with the scientists, but the engineers are showing us how they work, too. Last night we had the pleasure of watching what happens to the plans for the rover after they leave the SOWG (Science Operation Working Group) meeting. It is neat to see the final phase in weeding out what to really send to the rover and to watch them put it into the format to send it. It gets kind of touchy sometimes because there are so many things that everyone wants to send for the rover to do, but there are only so many commands that you can send at once, so some of the items have to wait and no one likes to wait. Over all, we can and always will say that this is the coolest thing that we have ever seen or done!
02/24/04: Today we got up at 4:00 a.m., and got to JPL at 5:30 a.m. We attended the Science Assessment Meeting, along with the others we usually attend. After the meetings, we started really working on our project for Dr. Arvidson. We used a presentation program to make a list of the sols (martian days) to organize the information so it is more accessible for the scientists. We are looking at Sols 1-51! Sarah was working with SAP (the Science Activity Planner) to put the target and feature names into pictures for the presentation. Ashley worked with the presentation to and put the sequence of events from sol to sol into tables. By the time Dr. Arvidson left JPL to go home and get some sleep, we were so determined to get it done that we were here for another hour or so. The best part is that other scientists as well as engineers that aren?t working in the same room as we are ask us to come and see what they are doing. I think that they are just as excited for us to be here as we are to be here. It is the absolute best experience in the world!
02/23/04: Today we got up at 4:00 a.m. California time, so we could start working at 5:30 a.m. We had a slight problem finding a place to buy notebooks, because the rest of the world is not on Mars time, so we proceeded without them.
We had the chance to speak with Dr. Steve Squyres, the mission Principal Investigator, who was a really nice guy. We had a very interesting conversation and then he wished us a wonderful time here, too. Sarah was thinking on the plane about JPL and how the scientists might not want to be bothered by us. But, they have all been awesome!! Sometimes, you go to ask them a simple question, and they give you a whole explanation. They are really excited to talk about what they do, so sometimes they tell you more than you even knew you were asking for!
We attended a couple of meetings this morning too. After the Science Assessment Meeting and the SOWG (Science Operations Working Group) Meeting, we went to the Science Discussion Meeting, where the scientists talked about dust devils and panoramic pictures. Another thing that we think is totally awesome is that from Earth you can change the filters on the cameras on Mars, take and send a picture in different colors and at different wavelengths and send it to Earth, and then change the filters back if you want. Amazing! Now we are starting work on our timeline, which will be a PowerPoint presentation including the list of features and targets. What a great experience!
02/22/04: We met at the Bloomington, IL airport at 10:00 a.m. yesterday and that was when it all started. We had an hour delay for our shuttle flight to O?Hare International Airport. In the meantime we said our last goodbyes to our families. As we started our adventure, our parents watched through the windows with a proud gleam in their eyes. Then we loaded the plane to Chicago.
Upon arrival in Chicago, we realized that we had 15 minutes to make it all of the way across the airport to our 2:00 flight. Needless to say they were about to hand our seats out to standby flyers. Once we were on the plane, it was all sleep from there. However, the coolest part of the ride was flying over the ocean in preparation for landing in Los Angeles and seeing the whales below!
We have so far met Dr. Morton Madsen (science team member), and Paul Bartlett (from the Rock Abrasion Tool team). We have only been here at JPL about an hour and I have already been completely blown away but all the amazing science we have seen--how cool is that?
We sat in on the SOWG (Science Operations Working Group) meetings as they planned for Sol 50 today (a sol is a martian day). Then we got our job assignments. We are going to be creating a historical summary of science operations since landing. The SAP (Science Activity Planner) program does not keep target and feature names from sol to sol, so some areas have had different names over time. Others have just been changed because they came up with newer better names. Also, there was a lot of discussion of the moves just prior to stopping on a traverse called by crazy names like ?Ante-penultimate, penultimate and ultimate.? That means 3rd to last, second to last and last respectively. Basically, it?s like parking a car. You have to judge your ability to open and close the doors so you don?t bang the next car. The rover has to judge obstacles in its way so that if we want to use the IDD (Instrument Deployment Device?the rover?s arm) the next morning, you don?t bang it on something.