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These journal entries were written by the Sam Rayburn High School team during their week at JPL.


02/29/04 (notes from Laura): I don't even really know where to start. So many things happened right when we arrived. Information had been sent down by the Moessbauer so we viewed it for the first time. We were only the second group of people in the world to see it. The only other people who had seen it were the people who received the information from the Odyssey pass. As soon as the data came in it had to be analyzed. It looked like a bunch of mismatched numbers until we put we put it into a correlation program. Everything is just awesome. The coolest thing is I can actually use the word awesome in the true context!

03/01/04 (notes from Laura):

We finished working on the data that we received yesterday. Mars time is really weird. The change from Texas time to California time is one thing, but Mars time just added a whole new dimension. It was really neat seeing our work put to the test. After we analyzed the data we put it into a plot and everything turned out exactly like it was supposed to. It was a really good feeling of success. We got to sit in on the press conference from JPL, but the great thing was we knew everything they were going to release before they said it. It was crazy knowing about water on Mars before the rest of the world and not being able to tell anyone.

03/04/04 (notes from Jenica): Dr. Souza is a wonderful mentor and we couldn't have asked for more. The simple fact that we were here when the press conference about Opportunity was made is astounding all in itself. Laura and I have been working very hard on all the data for the Mössbauer Spectrometer and once again, without Dr. Souza's assistance, we would have been lost a long time ago! We are just so thankful for having this opportunity. Tomorrow is our last day to work here, so we will be soaking up every second that we have here!

The first day started off great when we arrived on the plane and saw the beautiful mountains outside LA. They seemed especially amazing considering the fact that our region (Houston, Texas) is one of the flattest parts of the state. Once we got the car we went and had to have some California pizza and get rested for our first shift.

Sunday started off very early, but that was fine because we were on the edge of our seats waiting for the first thing we could do. For me, this was the first time that I had been here so this was all a pretty shocking but exciting experience unfolding. Dr. Souza and Mary (one of the ASIP coordinators) are wonderful people and they have made this week all that it has become. I couldn't have asked for more, and I can't even begin to describe how happy I am to be here doing this!

Tuesday was the date set for the press conference, and once again, we were right in the middle of it all! Chills ran up and down my back every time they stated that there was evidence that water was on Mars at one time! The smiles on everyone's faces and the reactions that people have had to this news proves that NASA and JPL are very important parts of the world and that without the dreams that these scientists have had all their lives, we wouldn't be here today enjoying this so much! Everyone should be able to have this type of experience, and I am very lucky and thankful to be able to say that I was at JPL when they announced the findings.

I can't begin to describe how this has affected my life, and changed my point of view. I have grown during this week and realized how much effort and dedication is put into these rovers and the sweat and tears that have been poured through and through to bring such an experience to the palm of our hands. I have captured this experience and will hold it closest to me for the rest of my life. Thank you so much and I hope that this has helped people to see how special this week has been to me!

03/05/04 (notes from Laura): Our work here at JPL is coming to a close. We have worked with so many wonderful people that I hate to leave. We got to sit in on a meeting between both Mars Exploration Rover teams and that was incredible. As I was sitting there I looked around the room and couldn’t begin to fathom the amount of knowledge that surrounded me. The best of the best were in the same room I was. I don’t even really know how to describe it. We are currently finishing up with our data analysis and it is coming along great. I have really enjoyed my time here, and I am so glad I got to be a part of this. I didn’t realize the magnitude of what we were doing until I got here, and now I realize this is history in the making. This is something that will definitely stay with me. At this point everything is worth it--lack of sleep, weird meal hours, constant meetings, and forgetting the rest of the world exists!
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