PART 1: Jack Farmer WebChat: Change of Date
Jack Farmer WebChat: Change of Date
Thursday, July 24, 9 a.m., Pacific, Jack Farmer **PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS A CHANGE OF DATE FROM THE ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED CHAT ON TUESDAY, JULY 22.** Jack is an exopaleontologist--a searcher for fossils on other worlds. His most important contribution to the Pathfinder mission to date was to recommend the landing site at the mouth of Ares Vallis (a large outflow channel). While it is unlikely that Pathfinder will discover fossil remains of ancient life forms, it may allow us to determine if the right kinds of rocks are present, that is, rocks of sedimentary origin that could harbor a microfossil record. Read Jack's bio and journals at: http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/mars/team/farmer.html Due to the large number of anticipated participants, it is necessary for you to register for WebChats in order to participate. All you need to do is RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org no less than 24 hours in advance in order to reserve a space for yourself. You will receive confirmation of your registration and a password to enter the chat room. If the chat rooms are full by the time you register, you can still participate by observing the chat from the observation room.
MPF TEAM JOURNAL #1: WHAT A RUSH!
by Bridget Landry July 4, 1997 Could it possibly have gone any better (with the exception of not deploying the rover)? Right up to the end, there were people (some of them at NASA Headquarters!) who honestly believed we'd be a smoking hole in the ground by now! Not only did we exceed THEIR expectations, we are vastly exceeding even our own wildest hopes. Contact with the spacecraft all the way to the ground. Contact immediately after we rolled to a stop. Landing on the base petal. Only 2 degrees of tilt. The high-gain antenna pointing within 1 degree of Earth. If you wrote a story with this as a plot, no one would believe it. We have received congratulations from the immediate world, from big wigs to just plain folks. I guess we weren't too wrong when we felt recently that the eyes of the world were on us. I missed most of the excitement, however, except via the replays. Since I was scheduled to start work at 11 p.m. that night, I was actually sleeping when we landed and when we got the first data from the spacecraft. Made me feel like a bit of an outsider--I know all the people in those clips, all those ecstatic folks, hugging and laughing and crying, but I wasn't there to share it. Something bittersweet about the fact that, as a member of the team, I was unable to participate as fully as if I had been a complete spectator. Even though I knew this would happen, it's still not what I expected. Will have to think about it some more.
MPF TEAM JOURNAL #2: 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.
MPF TEAM JOURNAL #3: MUCH MORE THAN EVER EXPECTED
by Bridget Landry July 8, 1997 When we first heard about the accuracy of the high-gain antenna pointing, all the scientists were rubbing their hands and cackling over the buckets and barrels and oodles of data this implied. (The accuracy of the high-gain pointing means we'll be able to use much higher data rates than were expected. There has always been the chance that the high-gain antenna wouldn't work and we would be forced into the same sort of data economies that Galileo has had to use. But it's working so well that we have actually been able to QUADRUPLE the data rate!) But what no one worked through is that to get that much data down, you have to take that much data to start with. All those gleeful smiles and greedy eyes have turned a little uncertain and glassy as they realize that THEY are the ones who have to make the decisions and the command files. They have all this wonderful data coming down and they barely have time to look at it, because they have to be preparing for the next day's experiments. It's driving them nuts. They still want to make every bit count, but some data are better than no data, and we will only have this firehose to drink from for a short while. When our prime mission ends, we will no longer have the kind of priority on the downlink facilities that we do now, and so we'll have to use smaller antennas, which means lower data rates. And, while they may not have time to look at those pictures now, they will at some point soon, and they are trying to think of what combinations of filters and targets, calibrations and time-series images will give them the broadest, most complete understanding of the current environment and its past history. While all of this had been done before landing, no one DREAMED we'd have these data rates to work with, which significantly changes what is desirable, as well as what is possible. As a scientist myself, I can relate to where they are; still, this embarrassment of riches is kind of fun to watch. Do you know the story about the donkey and the two identical piles of hay?...
IMAGING OPPORTUNITIES FOR VISUAL LEARNERS
You might not be aware that the "Live From Mars" site has imaging lesson plans that may address the needs of students who are more visual and hands-on learners. You will find an introduction to the concept of imaging in education, imaging lessons and imaging tutorials. Take a look and consider implementing the lessons into your fall plans. Go to: http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/mars/teachers/imaging/index.html
MARS PATHFINDER MISSION STATUS
[Editor's note: This status report was prepared by the Office of the Flight Operations Manager, Mars Pathfinder Project, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.] July 16, 1997, 9:00 a.m., PDT The Sojourner rover moved away from the rock nicknamed Yogi and headed toward a rock dubbed Scooby Doo during Mars Pathfinder's 12th Martian day, or Sol 12, which just concluded. The rover moved a total of 3.6 meters (about 12 feet), and has about 2 to 3 meters (7 to 10 feet) to go to reach Scooby Doo. On the way between the two rocks, the rover's alpha proton X-ray spectrometer (APXS) instrument will be taking readings of Martian soil. The science team expects for the APXS instrument to take readings of Scooby Doo on Sol 14 -- equivalent to Thursday night and Friday morning, July 17-18. Also during the past Martian day, the lander's Imager for Mars Pathfinder (IMP) instrument captured pictures of a Martian sunrise, atmospheric opacity and the lander's windsocks. The imager is also expected to take pictures shortly of a sunset and Mars' moon Phobos. During Sol 12, Pathfinder's lander sent a total of 65 megabits of data to Earth. All systems are functioning normally. On this Martian day, Earth rise was at 4:47 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on Tuesday, July 15; sunrise was at 7:56 p.m. PDT; Earth set was at 6:26 a.m. PDT Wednesday, July 16; and sunset was at 8:54 a.m. For further information, please visit our website at http://mpfwww.jpl.nasa.gov
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