1/18/04 (notes from Mr. Aragon): Today the New Mexico team (from Laguna-Acoma High School) started its week at the Jet Propulsion Lab. The day started at 1:00 am (Pacific time) and about 9:00 a.m. LST (Local Solar Time on Mars). Many people have been surprised that we have to work at night, but that is because we work when it is daytime for the rover - and right now that is the middle of the night on Earth! Because of cultural religious activities at home (the pueblo of Acoma in New Mexico), it was especially important for me to stay awake and active during the night. This all-night observance was for the support of the individuals involved in a religious pilgrimage back home, so it made it doubly significant for me this first night 'on Mars'.
When we got to JPL, we met with Dr. Larry Crumpler, our science mentor, and were escorted to the science theme group morning meeting. Various science theme groups at the science context meeting gave presentations. The discussions pertained to the data received by the Mössbauer and APXS spectrometers. There was a report about the magnetic dust collection data and questions and comments about these data. These presentations were exciting because science history was being made. All these activities were the "firsts" of their kind on any other planet besides our own. We were given a short building tour of the science floors and we also made an "ice cream" run to cool our minds down!
By 7:00 am (on Earth) we attended the Science Downlink Assessment Meeting, chaired by Steve Squyres, the Principal Investigator of the Athena Science Payload. It consisted of reports by all the theme groups about the work that the teams have done and the considerations of the next sol work objectives (a sol is a martian day). The possible objectives that could be accomplished are discussed and evaluated at this time. Questions, concerns and suggestions are entertained at this time. The different science theme groups are apprised of the status of the rovers and some of the engineering objectives. They are then given suggestions for the direction of the science theme groups planning for the next sol's objectives. Activities here are happening and changing by the second--this makes for some very exciting meetings!
At 9:15 a.m. we left JPL for some well-deserved rest. I was confident that it was time spent extremely well and that I fulfilled my obligation to stay awake with my prayers and thoughts for all those on their own "pilgrimages" at home as well as here in Pasadena! To be continued?
1/19/04 (notes from Mark and Jay): Today we got to do some real scientific work! Our mentor, Dr. Crumpler, told us to take a look at some images that had just come back from Mars. We looked at the images on the Science Activity Planner (SAP), and picked a specific area were we could do some work determining the distribution of rocks. Then we used a measuring tool that SAP has and measured the area. The area was 61.6 square centimeters. That might not seem very big, but it really is when you're counting and measuring pebbles and small rocks! We classified the rocks by their size and then we measured them with the ruler tool on SAP. We measured them in meters than converted that to centimeters. After that we put all the data into a spreadsheet computer program to make it more organized and to get a graph.
In one of the meetings that we went to we got to see the rocks that we helped name, which was really cool. The rock that we named was "frybread", and for those of you who don't know what that is, it is New Mexican delicacy. The other neat thing is that they named a rock ''blanco'' - a name we suggested that means white in Spanish. That experience was so cool because we actually named rocks on Mars and the scientist are talking about them in their meetings. Then we went to a Mars press conference, which showed the back of our heads on national TV! We called our parents so they could watch from home. The press conference didn't last that long and when it was finished we went back to our cubical to try and finish counting and measuring rocks. We had our work cut out for us!
1/20/04 (notes from Jay): Today we found out we needed to help collect all the names the scientist used to name rocks, geologic features, and targets for the various instruments. We did this to help make sure that they didn't accidentally use a name that had already been used. We figured the best thing to do was to personally ask each scientist if they had named anything, so we went straight to work and started asking any and every Mars scientist in sight. Then we came across Dr. Geoffery Landis, as science team member, who helped us set up the Science Activity Planner (SAP) to tell us all the names that had been used. After collecting all the names, we will enter them tomorrow in the big database. Then we made our nightly trip to the fifth floor to get some ice cream sandwiches. That always helps when you're about ready to fall asleep!
We went to the last and final meeting of the day, which is the end of sol meeting (by this time it was 1:00 p.m. and we had been at JPL since 4 a.m.!). The scientists were talking about were they want to go next and where they want the rover to work while its twin (Opportunity) gets ready for entry, decent, and landing. A few scientists mentioned they wanted to go to "fry bread," which felt pretty cool because that is the rock we named. It is sort of northeast of Adirondack, and my best guess is that it is about 70-80 centimeters from it. I hope they go there!
1/20/04 (notes from Mr. Aragon): All is well with "Spirit" and our team. We have survived a few sols (martian days) and stayed at JPL for a longer period than 'yestersol' (the Mars version of 'yesterday'). Our bodies are getting more adapted to the schedule.
After the meeting, our science mentor, Dr. Crumpler, informed us of the need to do some of the more regular work of geology. There is work that is sometimes put on hold because of the volume tasks that need to be completed first. Using the Science Activity Planner (SAP) we did some of that work. We were given an image that the rover took of a rocky area. We selected a plot where a distribution of rocks and pebbles could be measured and counted. Then the team used SAP to establish the relative measures of rock size and density. This process was familiar to our team as we have been doing this work at the lava flow sites in New Mexico with very similar rocks since we started this program. Our prior preparation with our mentor in New Mexico really helped us to do this work. We discussed the familiarity of the rocks in the images with Dr. Crumpler and how the images were reminiscent of sites we had visited at home.
At 10:00 am (Pacific time) we attended a press conference with project, engineer, and science leaders. The panel gave status reports and answered questions pertaining to the mission. This was way cool! At the end-of-day Science meeting (12:09 pm), The NM-ASIP found out that some of the discussion concerned two targets that the team named "Blanco" and "Frybread". These were some of the rocks that appeared in the images to be white and were very bright. The sol ended at 12:30 p.m. (Pacific time). On to the next sol!
1/22/04 (notes from Mark): Well, we're still here at JPL and the time is getting better for us because we start later and later each day. The reason for this is that we're working on Mars time which is about 39 minutes longer than an Earth day. So each day we work starts 39 minutes later. Today started out fine. We went back to our cubical for awhile where we waited for the science context meeting, which started at about 4:30 am. After the meeting was over we went back to our work on the Science Activity Planner (SAP). Once we were on SAP we looked at the images to find a Pancam image wide enough and that showed the names of all the rocks that had been labeled by the scientists. We also finished inputting the names on a spreadsheet; this will help the next team by showing them what the rock's names are so that as they keep naming rocks, they won't reuse names accidentally. We were fortunate to make the press conference where they talked about what was going on and what the rover has been doing and showed some cool pictures of the lander and the surrounding area. There were a lot of reporters at the press conference since the other rover is about to land, which is going to be pretty exciting!
1/22/04 (notes from Jay): Today we came in to work at 4 in the morning. We are really getting used to the work schedule. We went to the science context meeting and they told us the schedule for the day, and the options for stand down. Stand down is basically when Spirit is going to be "sleeping", when all the scientist attention is on Opportunity's EDL. (Entry Decent Landing) They could RAT Adirondack now, there current position, and move to another site where they could do just a little tests, or they could stay right there and do tests. One option was to move where there are some sand dunes to look closely at the sand or dust particles. The other was to move to one of the near by white rocks. They were sort of still talking about going to Fry Bread. Then I really enjoyed our mentor Dr. Crumplers' presentation, especially because what he showed related to us. He showed us a micro scopic image of Adirondack that was 31mm by 31mm, and some pictures of other rocks around New Mexico that look exactly the same. A couple samples also came from the area in which we live, from the Mt. Taylor volcanic field. We live and go to school at the base of the volcano. The samples were like granite, andesite, lime stone, and other volcanic basalt. Then we worked on SAP again to look at the latest images from the rover. Also were working on printing out a large Pancam image of Mars so we can just write down all the rocks and features that have been named on Mars. This would help us out a lot. After that we went to a press conference, and listened to Randel and Jennifer Trosphene talk about the rover. I always enjoy press conferences because the only part they show of you is the back of your head. Well I am out till next SOL.
1/22/04 (notes from Mr. Aragon): This sol began at about 4:10 a.m. (California time). We continued our work on the database for the names given to rocks and soils so far. We are to leave a list of the names and instructions to the next teams to continue this process for the remainder of our involvement of the mission. Using the Science Activity Planner, the team checked some of the features named in the navcam and pancam panoramic images.
We again attended several science meetings, which is becoming more routine - if you can call making planetary science history routine! Several interesting announcements about the characteristics about the martian surface were made at one of the meetings. The Mössbauer spectroscopy group reported high readings of a mineral called olivine. Olivine is usually found in volcanic basalts here on earth. Our team has been doing much work on volcanic basalts and also noticed what "looked" like olivine in previous sol images. Dr. Crumpler formally introduced us to the whole science team during a presentation about the one of the geology group's possible hypotheses. He mentioned that much of our team's work involved recognizing olivine and pyroxene in the basalts. The team felt extra special for working on what they initially thought was rather ordinary for their region and geology.
This sol we attended a press conference with some of the educational outreach staff and sat with members of the science team. We have put in some long hours, but they have been educational and very exciting. To be continued.
1/23/04 (notes from Jay): Today was actually sort of special for us because a reporter from one of our local news stations came out and filmed us on the job. The reporter hung out with us today and shadowed our every move. First we went to the science context meeting and debated the rover's location and what its objectives were for the present and coming sols. Then we went up to our ASIP cubicle and showed the reporter the picture of Frybread and Blanco - the rocks we helped name. He was chuckling because he knows what frybread is (since he's from New Mexico) and was amazed that we got to help name rocks. After finishing putting all the names in the database yesterday, today we were in the process of looking for the best pancam panoramic image. Our plan was to label each rock in the computer and print it out and hang it in the scientists - meeting room to help them get a 'global' view of the area. We told a few scientists and they thought that would be really useful in the sols to come. No one really has done this because the scientists are focusing on the big stuff like the analyzing the data, they can't sit down and label each individual rock. I am glad we can help them out that way.
Today our mentor, Dr. Crumpler, was explaining the images to us in more detail, especially the one that has the lander in it. You can see the eastern hills in the back and also the crater rim. After this, the reporter wanted to interview us in the press conference room. We also got a special tour of the Space Flight Operations Facility. This is where they manage every spacecraft they have sent to space. There are many spacecraft they keep in touch with. It's like in the movies when you see all these people in a room looking at the mission on a screen up above, and they are trying to keep in touch with them--yeah! Well, they have three stations in the main part, which include Deep Space Network, Data Systems (which gets the data from the spacecraft and sends it out to the mission teams), and the Mission Support area. The movie we watched in there was called Whispers from Space, and the point behind it was that when a satellite traveling at the ends of the solar system sends information the signal has to travel a long way and by the time it gets to one of our antennas, it is one billionth of a billionth of a watt! So that's why they have these huge antennas that are located in California, Spain, and Australia so they can have 'round the clock information. Well that the end of our day!
1/23/04 (notes from Mr. Aragon): Today we continued to work on creating a database for rock and soil names using SAP. We have become more and more familiar with its functions. Our mentor, Dr. Larry Crumpler, has been very helpful in our efforts. There was also information given to the science team that Spirit's communications were not normal. So as the engineers worked on understanding why, the science team continued to examine data received in earlier sols - there was plenty to do! Each science group prioritized the work they wished the rover to do in future sols. They also presented the analysis of the data received from the previous sols. Because of the entry, decent, and landing activities of Opportunity this weekend the science team is aware Spirit will be in 'stand down'. So, much of the discussion was where to 'stand down' and what data to collect during this time.
During today's meeting the entire science team was shown an image taken in high resolution of the exact site of the landing. This was especially exciting as it confirmed where the rover really was. Also in the image were the back shell and the parachute. And on the edge of the closest crater was some indication that the heat shield had landed on the high edge and slid down to the side. It was VERY exciting to be with the science team to see these images!
Also today the reporter from one of our state's TV stations was on site to interview Dr. Crumpler and our ASIP team. He mirrored Dr. Crumpler and the team throughout the afternoon. We discussed our work and told of our experiences so far. This made the team feel very special and a bit famous.
The social excitement was to meet with many members of the science team at a restaurant in Chinatown to celebrate Chinese New Year. Peking Duck was on the agenda and all of us had an excellent time! We had a good time eating some new dishes!
1/24/04 (notes from Jay): This morning we got data coming back from the rover, which was a good thing and all the scientists were happy. All the attention on Spirit is kind of calming down because it is going to 'stand down' while Opportunity has its entry, decent, and landing. Spirit will remain in its place for 3 sols while the scientists work on Opportunity. Opportunity will land at Meridiani Planium.
We were just looking at a big picture of Meridiani Planium--it was so cool! After that we went back up to our cubicle to start working on putting rock and feature names on the panoramic image. It's kind of a challenge because you have to sort through all of the data and weed out the images that won't help you. Even at that you have to zoom in on most of the images to get a good look at which rock was named--you don't want to label a rock that wasn't even named in the first place. Then we went to the press conference and I was happy because we saw Dr. Mike Malin up there and I have talked to him a little. He had actually located the rover and platform, the parachute, and what they think might be the heat shield. It was so cool because those images were taken from orbit around Mars, and it was still so visible! Then we learned about Opportunity and how its entry, decent, and landing relates to Spirit's. Well that was pretty much it; tomorrow is my last night at JPL.
1/24/04 (notes from Mr. Aragon): Spirit is still not responding as expected and many very smart engineers are working on finding our why. The science meetings have changed their focus to be making sure the sequences of the stand down and the next sols are correct, so as not to lose any valuable time. Because of Spirit's current status, the discussions of new tasks are on hold until more data is received on which to base the next sequencing of commands. Much of the engineering and science focus is now on the second rover, Opportunity, as it prepares to land on Mars.
On the lighter side, because of the problems with communications, we were allowed to leave JPL a little early and went to Universal City for dinner. There we met up with the Planetary Society Student Astronauts. They are from Maryland, Korea, Singapore, and India. It's very cool that the students from all parts of the world would all somehow end up at this amusement park together! The last sol for the our team is tomorrow. Good-bye JPL!