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Mars Team Online WebChat

Date: July 30, 1997

Featuring: Rob Manning
Flight System Chief Engineer, Pathfinder
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California


John Bayne/Australia: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 8:56AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Hi Sandy!

Sandy/NASA Chat Host: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 8:57AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Good Morning John! Welcome to the "other side" of the world!

Sandy/NASA Chat Host: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 8:59AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
John: Where exactly in Australia are you located and what time is it down there?

John Bayne/Australia: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:00AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Sandy: I'm in Cairns, which is in the Top-Eastern corner. It's just about to turn 2 am!

Sandy/NASA Chat Host: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:02AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
John: And you're still up to join us??? We're honored :-)

Dave/Kenosha Unified: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:02AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Hi Sandy. Are you ready for Kenosha teachers?

Sandy/NASA Chat Host: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:02AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Hi Dave: Yes, I am ready for the Kenosha teachers! Welcome to all of you!

Sandy/NASA Chat Host: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:07AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
EVERYONE: Rob Manning is here! If you were lucky enough to catch any of the television footage of Pathfinder's landing on July 4, you most likely saw Rob Manning, dark hair and beard, sitting at a terminal with the Mars team gathered around him as he gave detailed minute-by-minute descriptions of Pathfinder's descent to the surface of Mars. Rob is the project's flight system chief engineer.

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:08AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Hi everybody, I'm here finally! Go ahead & ask away!

Robert/Lynch: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:08AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Hi Rob. This is the pest that has been e-mailing you. When is winter on Mars?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:10AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Hi Robert (you AREN'T a pest). Winter is not for another year yet. (2 year seasonal cycle).

Dave/Kenosha Unified: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:09AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Rob, what is next for you? What can top Mars?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:11AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Dave, I don't know what will top this....except maybe .... Mars Sample Return in 2005!!

Shannon/5th grade: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:09AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Rob: I saw you on TV on JUly 4--you were so excited! Was that the best day in your career so far?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:12AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Shannon, that WAS a pretty cool day. In fact I still nearly get teary-eyed about it.

George/Middleton HS: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:12AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Now that PF is sitting on Mars, what is your job now?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:13AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Hi George. Now I am a member of the team of surface operations flight engineers. We cycle around the clock to keep things operational for the scientists.

Julia/palo verde: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:12AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Rob- Congratulations on a job well done. Using hindsight, what were the methods or techiques you used that contributed to your success?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:15AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Thanks Julia! I would say teamwork. Having a close bunch of people in place sure helped. (Almost all of us worked on the same floor as we are now operating from today.)

Sharon/PA: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:14AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
I read in your journals that PF's nominal mission is 30 days long. That will be next week!!! What whill happen then?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:16AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Sharon, actually nothing will happen except for one thing. Our battery on the lander will prevent us from operating and saving data overnight. We can operate throughout the day with our solar panels with no problem.

Dave/Kenosha Unified: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:14AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
The Apollo team was "smoking and sweating" all the time. You guys seemed to be having fun. Why such a difference?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:18AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Good question Dave! I don't know! We practice this a lot! I guess we were still pretending that this was yet another simulation. But we didn't scream during our simulations! (We traditionally eat peanuts before a big event like this)

Julia/palo verde: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:15AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Rob, How confident were you about your mission?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:20AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Julia, I was very confident that we had done all we could to prove that it would work. It is the "unknown unknowns" that worry all of us. I couldn't think of any more tests to do. At that point we were ready.

Robert/Lynch: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:15AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
How long do you expect the Rover to last?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:21AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Robert, the rover will probably go on for a long time. Most likely the mission will end early because one of us goofed (although I doubt that will happen)! So far so good!

Robert/Lynch: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:19AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Will you work on the 2005 mission Rob?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:22AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Robert, I hope to fanagle a job with them in the next year. (I need to apply like everybody else - and I have good competition!)

George/Middleton HS: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:21AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
So what are your days like now? Still working around the clock? If so, why?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:24AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
George, our team needs to prep the lander & rover every Mars day. This means we have to sync our schedules with the 24 hr & 39 min Mars day. Right now noon on Mars happens near noon Pacific time.

Dave/Kenosha Unified: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:22AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Rob, what can we do as teachers to motivate our students as you were motivated from within?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:26AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Oh man. I don't know Dave. I have always been enthused by all things. Exposure is the key. I read the Time/Life science books for my info source.

Julia/palo: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:24AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Rob, Are there things that you regret you couldn't do because of budget restrictions?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:27AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Yes Julia. I wish that we had enough money to hire a camera person to film our development process. There were some incredible moments that will forever be inside my head that I wish others could share.

Sharon/PA: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:24AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
When you apply for a job for the 2005 mission, you said you have a lot of competition. There's got to be only so many jobs for people like you, and lots of people who want to have/do a job like you do! What makes you special :-)?

George/Middleton HS: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:27AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
What does it mean that you "prep" the lander and rover every day? I thought you sent the command days/weeks in advance???

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:32AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
George, no we don't. Actually we have been sending the sequences (scripts that the computer on the lander & rover run) every (mars) morning before the day begins for that day! (Just in time). That is done "in the blind" without hearing from the lander until later that day.

Robert/Lynch: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:27AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
When do they expect to send the first man to Mars? Is it in the next 15 years?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:34AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Robert: The first person on Mars may be a woman! Or maybe YOU will be the first! I suspect that it will be AT LEAST 15 years from now. There is a LOT to do before then.

Andy/Gunn: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:30AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Which jazz players do you like? I like Kenny G and I play clarinet.

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:37AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Alright Andy! I like all sorts of jazz music (and other music as well). But my favorite is Charlie Parker (alto) and Clifford Brown (trumpet) both of whom died long ago. They play bebop!

Dave/Kenosha Unified: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:30AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Rob, if you could guide the space program, what direction would you go?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:39AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Hi Dave. Hmmmm. Direction for space exploration? I guess that taking one small step at a time like we are now trying to do. We should try to be more evolutionary rather than revolutionary (although you might argue that Pathfinder was a bit more the latter).

Shannon/5th grade: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:31AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Do you go to schools and give talks? You're good at explaining things! Do you have kids?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:42AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Shannon, actually I have only talked to schools maybe 2 or 3 times. So I am no expert in communicating. I don't have kids yet. My wife is due with a baby girl at the end of Sept !! :) Great timing eh?

Julia/Palo Verde,: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:34AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
I bet you must feel like there is nothing you can't do, is that a cool feeling?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:45AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Julia, you flatter me. Actually this experience has made it abundantly clear just how many limits there are to do this kind of thing. It is real hard to do this kind of thing. But I must admit that it feels GREAT to have it work!!!!!!!

Julia/Palo: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:38AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
I heard you on the radio and it was awesome. I think you are an American hero.

Sharon/PA: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:39AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
What do you think of the Mars meteorite? Do you think there is microscopic life on Mars?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:47AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Sharon, we don't know yet if those tiny things really ARE micro bacteria. I would like it to be true. It has many implications for life throughout our solar system & beyond. (Europa maybe??)

Dave/Kenosha Unified: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:40AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Hey, Australia. Where are you? Any questions?

Ethan/San Jose: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:43AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Are you going to name the baby Sojourner?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:48AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Ethan - Sojourner Manning? Weeeeeellllllllll. I suspect my wife has other ideas!

Dave/Kenosha Unified: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:44AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Rob, what is most important in your position, math, science, or communication? Why?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:51AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Dave, all of the above! I am not the best at ANY of those disciplines, but I am pretty good at all of them. Knowing how to keep people feeling like a team is VERY important to me, but so is Math & Physics (and electronics, and software and mechanical engineering and ........ (everything)!

Andy/Gunn: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:45AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
I'm interested in building stuff and I would like to be an engineer. But school is boring I don't like doing the same things over.

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:53AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Andy, I know know what you mean. My high school teachers were not all great (some were). What I did was build my own projects. From scratch stuff around the house I built a weather station where I could read the wind speed & direction and humidity from my bedroom.

Robert/Lynch: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:47AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Why was the Scooby Doo rock so White?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:56AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Robert, Scoobie appears to be hardened soil (sometimes called - and I can't spell it - colluchie). This is what happens to very fine soil after a rainstorm in Arizona; it hardens to a whitish pavement. (there WAS water here!)

Robert/Lynch: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:56AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Thanks a lot for your time Rob!!!! :)

Dave/Kenosha Unified: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:56AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Thanks Rob! This has been a great experience for a group of teachers in Kenosha, WI. Bye everybody.

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:56AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
You are welcome Robert!

Alice: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:58AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Hi Rob, It is so cool that you are here. I saw your picture in Newsweek. How are things changing now that you are moving to longer term planning?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:59AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Alice, the pace of things has slowed down a bit (thankfully). I like looking a bit further ahead (than 1 day) so we don't have to rush through the day.

Sandy/NASA Chat Host: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:58AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
EVERYONE: Thanks for joining Rob in today's chat! Your questions were great. Hope to chat with you again next week! A special thanks to Rob for taking the time to join us today! It was most enjoyable to chat with you!

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:58AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Thank you all for stopping by! I need to go off and watch the data come in soon. We expect that Sojourner will be taking a picture of "Mini-Matterhorn" and then go around to the back.

John Bayne/Australia: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 9:59AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Dave: I'm still here - just suffering from a bit of writer's (questioner's?) block. :-) Rob: Just wondering, what differences would a rocket to be used for a manned (personned?) mission to Mars have? Could current rocket technology make the trip?

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 10:01AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Hi John (good morning!). Yes current technology can get people to Mars, but just not bring them back (key point here). A lot of work needs to go into creating fuel ON mars to get off of the planet and back to Earth.

Andy/Gunn: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 10:00AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Thanks Rob!

Sandy/NASA Chat Host: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 10:02AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Good bye everyone! Chat with you next week! Be sure to RSVP to me at sandy@quest.arc.nasa.gov

Rob/Mars Pathfinder: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 10:02AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bye!

John Bayne/Australia: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 10:03AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Ok :-) Thanks for the great chat Rob + Sandy!

DianeS-Maywood: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 10:34AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Oh, my gosh I am late!!! I am sorry.

DianeS-Maywood: . . . . Wed, Jul 30, 10:35AM PDT (-0700 GMT)
I really wanted to meet Rob after spending the weekend of the 4th with him on TV.


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