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What a Relief!by Bridget Landry
July 5, 1997
What a relief to get the rover deployed! We were all worried last night, when we couldn't communicate with the rover, that something was seriously wrong. However, they have the modem system working again, so we can breathe a sigh of relief.
Someone said yesterday that the whole thing has been like some high-power baseball game, with each person having to step up to the plate and swing. First, Pieter Kallemeyn and the Nav team got a solid hit, landing well within our target ellipse. Then Rob Manning connected with a flawless execution of EDL (entry, descent and landing), culminating with the signal of a safe landing coming immediately after the lander settled, hours before it was expected. Next, Jennifer Harris and the flight team singled with a completely nominal first half of the first sol. A high-five between Peter Smith (the camera principal investigator) and Chris Shinohara (one of the people responsible for building and programming the camera) signaled the first high-gain antenna contact. (Their camera had to locate the sun and communicate its location to the lander, to allow the lander to know where to point the high gain.) Next, the image processing guys sweated out the appearance of the first images--this had been a sticky point in several of the ORTs (operational readiness tests), but went without a glitch when it counted.
All this left the rover team with a full count and bases loaded. They worked tirelessly through the night, analyzing, simulating, hypothesizing. And all that work paid off--they rolled down the ramp and onto the Martian soil late this evening and the entire floor erupted into shouts and cheers when those first pictures of the rover on the ground came in. And, even though we were watching history in the making, I think we were more happy for the individuals involved, that their work and skill had been rewarded with such a splendid, well-earned success.