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


02/15/04 (notes from Mr. Grigsby): Arriving on lab at JPL in the middle of the night was a surreal experience. Not a lot of people were around at 8 p.m. on a Sunday evening. Media tents were still up in the main walkway with either Mars landscapes painted on them, or lights set up ready for the next interview. We familiarized ourselves with our new 'home' for the next week-the ASIP cubicle, with cot and all. We set up for our stay, and then we went to find our mentor, Dr. Nathalie Cabrol, who was working in the Spirit science room. She is a part of the Spirit science team, which is working in the middle of the night right now (Earth time).

At 9 p.m. it was quiet. A few scientists were working on images or using the Science Activity Planner (SAP), deciding what the rover would be doing next. We met up with Dr. Cabrol and she took us into the engineering room where engineers were waiting for a response from Spirit and the newest data from the red planet. As we watched, Spirit began transmitting data and images, and we were one of the first people in the world to view these newest images! I couldn't believe it! Truly impressive!

Next we became familiar with some of the other scientists, and all were great to talk with. Dr. Cabrol then had us get right to work on some of the images from previous days, analyzing the grain size in images from the microscopic imager. Through this analysis, scientists are able to determine several characteristics about the environment, including the origin of the soils and whether its origins were wind or water.

We attend the three meetings for the day: (1) Spirit update, (2) Science activity planning update, and (3) Science Operations Working Group (SOWG) meeting where scientists advocate for where they would like to see Spirit spend its time.

02/15/04 (notes from Cherise): We arrived at JPL at 8:00 p.m. and went to our ASIP cubicle to see where we will be staying and what we will be doing there. It is a very cozy little cubicle because every team that has been there so far has left something from their school. We even had a little cot in case we get really tired. It's so cool that we have our own workspace in JPL!!

We then went down to where our mentor, Dr. Cabrol, was working on Spirit. It was amazing to be in the room with all of the scientists working on Spirit! Dr. Cabrol showed us the engineering room once we met with her in the Spirit room. It was so surreal to be in the room with the engineers. We even got to see some of the images from Mars before some of the scientists did! After we saw the latest images, our team worked on some microscopic images that Dr. Cabrol gave us to work on. I can't believe that we were analyzing pictures on Mars to help out Dr. Cabrol! We went to all the meetings during the night that dealt with Spirit. It was so amazing! After the last meeting of the night, we went home at about 4:00 in the morning.

02/15/04 (notes from Timothy): Wow! We are finally here, this is the real thing! After arriving at JPL we quickly got started by getting a little tour. Next we went to the first meeting of the day where the scientist talked about the rover's condition and what was due up for the day's schedule. It was awesome to see how the scientist all came together. After this brief meeting we went to work on looking at some pictures that Dr.Cabrol asked us to analyze. Then she took us to the engineering room and we got to be one of the first people to see the pictures sent down from Mars it was the coolest thing to see something that no one else on earth has seen before!

Later we went to another meeting that updated the scientist on what new data had come down and talked about some possibilities for the next sol (martian day). It was incredible to see how all the groups worked separately and then at the meeting they came together and shared their information and what they thought should be done next and what was possible and how successful they had been on the sol.

Then we went back to work on the pictures. By this time it was getting pretty late at night but we were all doing well. I was a little overloaded because I was just taking every thing in! It was just amazing to not only to be in the room where all of the scientists work but also to actually be working with them. After I was done with my analysis of the pictures, there was a little time to get a snack and the scientist got ready for the final meeting of the day where they make all of the decisions for what the rover will do on the next sol.

By the final meeting everybody was a little tired but I was still so excited that I was willing to tape my eyelids open if that was what it took! We made it and got to see how the scientists decide on how the sols are going to work. It is a great cooperation of several teams coming together for one common goal: To do what is best for science and to have the greatest possibility for discovery. As the day ended I was just in awe. As I get ready for the next sol I still cannot believe I am actually working with NASA scientists on the Mars Exploration Program! There is only one word that can describe it-- INCREDIBLE!

02/16/04 (notes from Mr. Grigsby): The day began at 11 p.m. with our team being well rested. We arrived in time to attend the sol (martian day) 44 sequence-planning meeting. The scientists discussed how they were going to approach traveling toward the crater 'Bonneville'. Seeing the 3-D images was amazing! These images help the team plan the next sequence of events to continue in the direction of the crater. Scientists have to consider several factors when deciding how to drive the rover toward a destination. (1) Terrain: This is an important factor because of the obvious reason that scientists do not want to jeopardize the rover by driving it into a tough terrain to navigate. (2) Scientific Targets: Scientists want to be able to study targets along the way, but continue in the direction of their ultimate destination. (3) Power: Management of power is a key issue when scientists only have a certain amount of time during the day to conduct surface operations. Today we were also able to give informal names to some of the rocks that populated the area around Spirit's current location.  It was very exciting!

We stayed for a complete sol at the lab, ending at 7 a.m. California time the next day. We attended all the meetings where scientists discussed why they want to study certain objects, and where they plan to have the engineers drive the rover the next day. It was all very intense! When we finished our shift, we walked out in to the cool morning air with the sun just coming up - we couldn't believe that we actually spent the whole night (sunset to sunrise!) at the lab... and to think that many of the scientists have been doing this since the rover landed!

02/16/04 (notes from Tim): Not just another day on Mars! On our second sol (martian day) we got to experience many new things that we may never have chance to do ever again. We started out and went to the first meeting the day where they discussed how every thing was and it was pretty cool. But the next meeting was incredible and super interesting! The scientists had different views on what they believe would be best for the rover to do. Two basic ideas came to the floor and the scientist debated and advocated for each side. It was awesome to see these experts debate the different ideas for the rover. The coolest thing about these debates was that whatever they decided would become what they do with the rover next. So the debates had true meaning and were very interesting!

After attending that meeting I went to work measuring rocks for Dr. Cabrol. The rocks were in pictures taken by the microscopic imager so the rocks in the picture were very small. It was amazing to see rocks less than a millimeter wide. But after that we got to do something that very few ever get a chance to do. We actually got to help students give informal names to some of the rocks and features. Just the thought of that is cool! Then after looking at more rocks we went to the SOWG (Scientific Operations Working Group) where they make all the final decisions for the next sol. This was very interesting because everything that the rover will do has to be decided in this meeting and this is where everyone on the whole rover team comes together and gets it all done. Wow--that was incredible!

02/16/04 (notes from Cherise): Our second sol at JPL was the most exciting day ever! Our day started at 11:00 p.m. Right when we arrived at JPL and got set up, we got the experience of a lifetime. One of the scientists there was giving informal names to some of the rocks on one of the pictures on the Science Activity Planner (SAP) program. And our mentor, Dr. Cabrol, asked us if we would like to join in. It was so exciting! I got to name two of the rocks and Tim and I named a hollow. The most exciting thing is that our names show up every time that the picture is brought up on the screen! It is so exciting!

We also got an assignment from Dr. Cabrol to measure rocks from one of the images taken by the microscopic imager. I find it so amazing that our team is getting to experience what the scientists get to do everyday and it is actually a lot of fun to do. After we worked on the pictures for Dr. Cabrol, Tim and I got the opportunity to talk to one of the scientists about what his job is at JPL. He was very nice and very willing to talk to us, which was very cool. We had a videotape interview with him and he explained to us that he was responsible for the task of the long-term planning of the mission. What he told us was very interesting and we actually learned a lot more about long-term planning. We then attended the final planning meeting. It was very exciting to listen to and to be able to witness history taking place. It was a great way to end the day!

02/17/04 (notes from Cherise): Yesterday we experienced a very interesting aspect of the process that happens with the scientists and the Mars rovers. When we first arrived for the beginning of the sol (martian day), the scientists were starting the first meeting of the day, where they discuss the success of yesterday and what they plan for today's sol. Then there is a few hours in between the first meeting and the science downlink assessment meeting. During this time, our team got to start on the work that was given to us by Dr. Cabrol. This work is interesting because the scientists are actually going to use our work to help them out a little. After the lull, we saw the science downlink assessment meeting where the scientists finalized their requests for the rover's activities and talked about future sols. These are always super exciting because the scientists have really interesting discussions about the rover! After this meeting there is another lull where the scientists work really hard to finish up their final plans for the rover. I found this time fun to listen to the scientists talk about everything and talk amongst the other groups. Near the end of the sol, the scientists attend the SOWG (Science Operations Working Group) meeting where they input the data to the rover. We got the exciting chance to experience this and it was really fun because the scientists have to be very careful and know what they want or they could have problems. This meeting lasted about two hours but was very exciting and it was cool to see the process! This day was very fun because of the fact that we got to experience the whole scientific process that goes along with the rover. And it is wonderful to be able to get the chance to sit with the scientists during their meetings and listen to them discuss.

02/17/04 (notes from Mr. Grigsby): Last night's shift was an interesting one. The night before we attended all the meetings and were able to see how scientists made decisions about where the rover should go the following day. Last night, we were then able to hear from the science lead about what rover plan was uploaded to the rover, and how long each task would take. We then waited a couple of hours while the rover conducted its tasks. We helped Dr. Cabrol with analysis of the Microscopic Imager pictures and grain size during this time. It was a quiet lull in the activity.

Not sure what to expect, we waited through the science portion of the meeting. Soon after that, we went into the engineering center where the rover activities are monitored, and as we stood there, data began flooding back from the rover. Soon after this, we began to see numerous pictures streaming in showing the position of the rover'.what intrigued me was how we were there the day before listening to scientists discuss how they wanted to progress, and then we were able to see the end result as it was available. Quite a full circle process! We saw the destination that scientists wanted to reach during this sol (martian day), and the tasks that they wanted to see happen. The rover now sits in Laguna Hollow, and used its wheels to disturb the soil in this small depression.

Tomorrow, we will visit the Opportunity mission center to see how Spirit's twin sister is doing.

02/17/04 (notes from Tim): The Cycle of Mars starts like this - first the scientist come together for the science context meeting. This is where the scientists see where they are for the day and see what is supposed to happen for that sol (martian day). Then there is a break where the scientists start to plan the next sol and prepare for the next meeting. This meeting is called the science downlink assessment meeting. At this meeting the scientist look at what has come down from the rover from previous sols and mostly the yester-sol (sol before today's sol). They also discuss what they want to do on the next sol and start discussing what would be the most important thing to do for the next sol. After this meeting the scientists break apart again and start to put together the sequences for the rover and making any last minute decisions. Next is the SOWG (Science Operations Working Group). This is where all of the sequences are presented and put into the rover's schedule for the next day. This is the last meeting before the commands are sent up and the rover is made ready for the next day. Then after the SOWG there is the last meeting of the day called the end-of-sol discussion. This is where the scientists go over what they decided and what to possibly expect for the next day. Then the scientist get to go on a 12 hour break where they try to get as much rest as possible before coming in for the next sol. Then the scientist come back and start with science assessment meeting where they review what is planned for the day and what is to come. Then they go to the next science downlink assessment meeting where they see what has come of the plans that they made the sol before. This is how the Mars cycle works. It seems very simple but is really very intricate and it is how real science works. And I got to experience it!

02/19/04 (notes from Mr. Grigsby): Today we decided to go during the day to JPL to gain a perspective of the lab during the daytime. What a difference a day makes! We could hardly find a parking spot and the students were left wondering what that shining object was in the sky (I told them not to get used to it this week--it was the sun). We attended a press conference that was broadcast on NASA TV with several members from the Opportunity team including Principal Investigator, Dr. Steve Squyres. We were able to see the latest information about the Opportunity rover and what new science activities were being planned.

Later that morning we attended the Sol 26 science context meeting for Opportunity to compare to what we have been experiencing with the Spirit rover. Now the Opportunity rover is shifting its working hours into the afternoon, and Spirit is shifting into the early morning hours. Today the shift started at 1:18 a.m. and ends by 9 a.m. the next morning. This has been an amazing process to witness - my biorhythms are certainly off! I go to bed at 9 a.m., wake up a couple of hours later - then take a siesta later in the afternoon, and by the night shift I am ready - so to speak.

Today Spirit sits in a hollow called Laguna Hollow. The Scientists have uploaded commands to the rover to begin what is called 'trenching' with one of the wheels to dig deeper below the surface and they will examine this with the Microscopic imager on the IDD (Instrument Deployment Device, or rover arm). We will see what the results are soon. Stay tuned!

02/19/04 (notes from Tim): Mars, Mars, and more Mars! Today we pulled a double shift - working on both rovers. We started at the press conference where we learned what was going on the other side of Mars. That is Opportunity's site Meridiani. Then we attended the Opportunity science meetings. At the meetings we got to experience what the scientists working on Opportunity do and how it compares and contrast to how the Spirit team works. We saw that it was very similar but the data are a lot different and the views are a lot different. After our experience with Opportunity, we took a break so that we could rest for our long night shift. We were a little behind because we took Wednesday off and got some much needed rest. But we quickly got back and track and then we finished some work that Dr. Cabrol had asked for. Cherise and I worked together and got it done. It was truly incredible to think that the data that I am analyzing are going to be used for true Mars work--not just for practice. This was just an incredible experience and I will never forget this truly amazing opportunity!
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