On the first day of their three-day visit, students and their parents
toured JPL. The second day was taken up with an intensive short course
on using JPL's software used for remotely commanding FIDO. The third
day was devoted to the simulated mission.
Science planning and execution was led by Dr. Bob Anderson, scientist
for the rock abrasion tool on an upcoming rover mission, acting as flight
manager, and Dr. Ashitey Trebi-Ollennu, mission planner and FIDO control
systems engineer. Rover operations engineer Dr. Mark Powell, mission
uplink/downlink lead, kept very busy building command sequences for the
rover in response to students' decisions about what they wanted to
study and noted that they were easy to train in using the software.
Shaleen Harlalka, 17, second from left, plans a career in science and
expects to attend either an Indian university or one of the top U.S.
universities with strong science programs. He also swims at the
national level, likes to read, and likes adventure. He was previously
a Student Scientist in the Red Rover program, before becoming a
Student Navigator. Others pictured are, from left, Bhushan Prakash
Mahadik, India, and Daniel Jan Hermanowicz, Poland.
The JPL team kept the mission planning discussion on course, reminding
the student navigators of time and software/hardware constraints. They
provided guidance for potential science targets, but let the students make
the decisions on the scientific focus.
Trebi-Ollennu said, "We've had a fantastic three days with the
kids. These tests provided an exciting venue for the kids to apply verbal,
written, mathematical and computer skills to solve real-world problems.
This international experience also gives the kids a unique insight and
perspective as to how to work in a collaborative team of experts from
diverse disciplines and cultures, an invaluable asset as aspiring space
While the student navigators were all scientific seriousness in the
mission room, excitement and high spirits prevailed on their visit to the
Mars Yard. They took pictures and got as close as possible to the rover,
asking questions and chattering about their experience. Too soon, it was
time to say goodbye to the rover and go back to the lab to
conclude the mission.
Anderson led the group in a discussion of what they had done and
what they had learned during the three days. The students agreed that
they had learned to work as a team, to collaborate, to support consensus
and they learned scientific procedures.