Touch Screen for the Long-Term Planning Team
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The touch screen is an interactive, bulletin-board-sized screen that the
Long-Term Planning Team (LTP) uses to keep track of daily and future
rover activities. Scientists and engineers walk up to the board, and with
their fingers, touch the plasma screen for effortless navigation on this
computer. They can also draw on this screen. If they want to draw or
circle an object, they pick up a stylus and scribble away!
The Long-Term Planning team does what the title implies. While other
science teams are busy figuring out what the data from the rover
instruments mean and are planning on what the very next observations
and measurements should be, the LTP team thinks about what the rover
should be doing two, three, five, or even ten sols down the road.
"We constantly interact with other science team members," says
scientist Brad Joliff from Washington University in St. Louis, "and we
get just as caught up in the moment-to-moment excitement as everyone
else on the team."
The LTP team brainstorms about what the rover needs to do to stay on
track towards new discoveries. The team decides what they would do in
case they encountered unanticipated problems or results. This is where the
interactive board helps the team. Just like announcers during a football
game, they use it to sketch out alternative pathways for rover
moves and activities.
As a team," Joliff explains, "we recommend long-term
strategies and consequences of different alternative rover activities to
members of the science team. Typically, one of our members helps design
days of driving to ensure that the rover always moves in a direction
heading to measurements and activities that contribute to solving key
science issues and achieving mission-performance objectives. The
'documentarian' keeps track of daily scientific results and how they pertain
to the overall picture and the main hypotheses being tested. The LTP lead
keeps track of what all the other science groups are doing, how their
results relate to each other and fit in the big picture and what the rover is
doing in the upcoming sols." The benefit of having this system
rather than a normal whiteboard is because this is a computer and it can
store and organize all the notes and truly streamline the process.
Now that the field exercise is halfway complete, the planning team has
a much clearer set of ideas about what they need to do to test their main
hypotheses and outstanding questions. At this point, they are now
looking six to eight sols ahead to ensure that the resources and
capabilities of the rover will be used to the maximum extent, thereby
achieving mission success.