For participating students, the road to the 2002 FIDO field test has been a long, winding path full of excitement, surprises and especially, hard work.
Before traveling to the test, we participated in a series of teleconferences and met with our respective mentors once or twice a week. Every Wednesday, from early July to the beginning of the test in mid-August, we called in from all over the country for the teleconferences. The teleconferences consisted of a student-only session for the team members to get to know each other, an overview session about the geology of Mars, how the FIDO test pertains to the Mars Exploration Rover mission, and Mars exploration in general, an overview of the hardware and scientific instruments on the rover, and software to help command and drive the rover. When not on the phone, we did our "homework" and met with our mentors to learn about what they do and, more importantly, their role in the Mars Exploration Rover mission. The so-called "homework" consisted mostly of going on the web and visiting different sites to learn as much as possible about Mars processes and geology, the rover mission, and the test rover, FIDO.
Of course, we did not spend the entire time preparing for the test. Some of us enjoyed our last days of summer lying in the sun or jumping out of planes, while others of us studied for our final exams. As the days went by, though, more time was spent preparing for the tests. The work, which ranged from working in a lab developing images or taking measurements of samples to surfing the net for more information about Mars, proved to be very time consuming. However, the efforts paid off when the test came around.
We were able to make products that would not have been made if we were not there. We contributed to the tests by creating posters of panoramic images and specific targets, comparing data from the spectrometers on the rover to lab spectra, and keeping track of make a different to the overall success of great undertakings--even a mission to Mars!