OFJ Field Journal from Marcia Segura - 8/25/95
NEAR INFRARED MAPPING SPECTROMETER TESTBED DAYAt 5:30 am, my day begins as I'm wakened by the radio blaring "golden oldies". I prefer this option to the annoying buzzer! After the usual preparations for the day ahead, I leave for JPL. I've got one VERY IMPORTANT stop to make this morning before I go to the office.
You see, the NIMS (Near Infrared Mapping Spectrometer) is in the TestBed (a special place that houses a "virtual" Galileo and engineering models of the science instruments) today and it is Galileo tradition that the science team du jour provide breakfast for the TestBed personnel. Traditions must be maintained so Donut shop here I come. Mission accomplished!!! I found 2 dozen of the most sugar-laden and artery-hardening donuts known to man or woman.
This NIMS testbed day is scheduled to start at 8:00 am. We will be testing the new NIMS software and the new Galileo spacecraft software. We want to make sure that all the software works well together before we send it to the instrument and the spacecraft. About 7:45 a.m., I arrive at the Testbed. Gerry Snyder, the test conductor, and I spend a few minutes discussing the day's test, procedure, and schedule. The "virtual" spacecraft, associated computers, and software will be up and operational by 9:30. The NIMS instrument will be turned on shortly thereafter.
All the science instrument models are kept in a room separate from the TestBed crew and the spacecraft. This is necessary for a number of reasons, but most importantly for instrument safety. The project doesn't want *anything* to happen to the engineering models because they would be extremely expensive to replace--that is, IF replacement was possible. The instrument models are mounted on special tables and are protected by covers built just for them. The instruments are sensitive to their environment so we have to be very careful when we work in the room with them. We wear special lab coats and have to walk across "fly paper" when we enter the room; both the coats and the fly paper help to protect the instruments from dust and dirt. We also wear grounding straps when working close to the instrument because we do not want electrical charges to cause damage to the instrument's electronics.
At 9:00 a.m., Al Stevenson (he's our instrument engineer) and I put grounding straps on and removed the cover from NIMS. We always take great care in lifting the cover but I still feel much better when this part of the job is done. Next, I configure the computer that we'll use to monitor the instrument during the test. The final set-up step for NIMS is the communications check; because the test activities happen in two places we use a voice net. So, on goes the GLAMOROUS headset! You know, Alpha, Bravo, Foxtrot....... Tango, X-ray. At 10 a.m., NIMS is ready to proceed with the day's testing activities. A status check with the test conductor reveals that the "ground system" (that is, what's down here on Earth) part of the software is not working correctly. There was a new version delivered and OOPS we were the fortunate ones to find the BUGS! The planned work-around is to use the older version. Estimated time of test start is now 12:00 noon. A decision was made to slip the start time until 1:00 to give the crew time for lunch... It's now obvious we won't be home for dinner. We returned at 12:45 only to discover that the 1:00 test would be slipped until 2 p.m.; the software load was in progress but not complete..... We turned NIMS on a little after 2 and started the test at 2:30 p.m. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
Part of the test requires loading the new NIMS software into the instrument memory. To check that the load occurred correctly, we perform a test on the software known as a "checksum"--we then compare the results of the test with the predicted result (rather like checking a test paper against the answer key). If the two results are the same, we can feel confident that the software loaded correctly. You'll never guess what happened next?!! The results WERE DIFFERENT!!! What now? We had two options - continue and see what happens or abort the test. We decided to continue - the instrument didn't work. A memory readout (which will help us figure out what's wrong) was done quickly before everything crashed! It's now 4 p.m.!
We spent the next 60 minutes poring over the memory. One of the 2646 characters was incorrect. A spacecraft command was created to fix this and we restarted at 5:30 p.m. Another "checksum" was done and this time everything matched up. The test executed as expected, pausing activity conveniently at 8 p.m. for the crew to eat the pizza under the stars. (Pizza Hut delivers!)
The NIMS testbed activity concluded at 11:45 p.m. but the surprises of the day weren't over yet. As Al and I were leaving the building, 2 raccoons sat just outside the door waiting for handouts. The testbed crew brings an assortment of nuts and seeds for them. They also are quite partial to leftovers of any kind!!! Hand feeding them was a fun experience but that's not all! We also saw 5 deer cross the street in front of us!!! This day has been different and challenging to say the least.
It's Friday or almost Saturday.... This week has been incredibly busy. It's been filled with last minute errands and final arrangements for the fateful trip to Boston that I've been anticipating and dreading. Adrian, my oldest son, will be attending Emerson College there and I'm helping him get settled in. I am truly excited for him but I will miss him terribly. Parents spend 18 years hanging on and then in 18 seconds you have to "let go". And they say kids have it rough! Oh well, there'll be just enough time for a couple hours sleep and suitcase packing for the mid-day flight.
Day's End - Marcia Segura "Online from Jupiter"