Scientists working from home due to coronavirus locking measures have been able to operate the NASA Curiosity rover – which is 125 million kilometers away on Mars.
The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory team continues to explore the red planet, although they cannot travel to their California office or use high-end workstations.
Working on ordinary laptops and using simple red / blue 3D glasses, the team managed to tell Curiosity to drill into Martian soil in an area called Edinburgh.
The space agency said the team would normally be in a single room sharing screens, images and data, but must now do so using online services and chat rooms.
NASA Curiosity Mars rover mission team members photographed themselves on March 20, 2020, the first day that the entire mission team worked remotely from their home
The first completely remote work mission for NASA Curiosity saw the team tell it to drill in the sandstone (photo) to collect soil samples that could be tested later
NASA began planning for researchers to work from home in early March, and on March 20, the first fully remote mission was carried out.
The team began to anticipate the need to go completely remote a few weeks earlier, which led them to rethink their operation.
Helmets, monitors and other equipment have been sent to the scientists ’home – picked up on the sidewalk rather than given to team members.
Programming each sequence of actions for the mobile can involve 20 people developing commands in one place while chatting with dozens of others.
“People are talking in small groups and with each other across the room,” said team leader Alicia Allbaugh.
So far, it looks like many teams working in a normal office environment – but in this case, they are working on something as far away as possible – a vehicle on Mars.
Since the lockdown and isolation measures to slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus, many people have had to find new ways of working.
Now the Curiosity team is doing the same job by hosting multiple video conferences at the same time while relying more on messaging apps.
“It takes an extra effort to make sure everyone understands each other; on average, planning each day takes an hour or two more than usual, “said NASA.
“This adds limits to the number of orders sent each day. But for the most part, Curiosity is still just as scientifically productive.
Working with teams on the International Space Station throughout the year, as well as a story of communication with astronauts going to the Moon, NASA is an old hand in working at a distance.
To make sure everyone is heard and understood, Scientific Operations Team Leader Carrie Bridge is proactively speaking with scientists and engineers to fill communication gaps.
Bridge asks his team things like, “Does anyone see any problems with the current plan? Does the solution around which engineers converge work for scientists?
“I probably monitor around 15 chat channels at any one time,” she said. “You juggle more than you normally would.”
NASA car-sized Curiosity rover explores the Red Planet from its landing inside Gale Crater Inn August 2012
She normally toured several different groups working in “situation rooms” where Curiosity data and images are seen.
“I continue my normal routine, but practically,” said Bridge.
“It’s classic, NASA,” she said. “We are presented with a problem and we find a way to make it work. Mars is not motionless for us; we are still exploring.
The technology barrier was one of the biggest issues to overcome – the team typically uses advanced graphics cards in high-performance computers while working at NASA’s JPL facilities in Southern California.
Planners use 3D images of Mars to calculate the Curiosity path to take and use special glasses that move quickly between left and right eye views to display contours in the Martian landscape – but a laptop domestic cannot run these glasses.
NASA has moved to simple red-blue 3D glasses – the kind offered with old 3D movie DVDs and although they are not as immersive as they work, NASA said.
The team conducted several tests and a full test before it was time to plan the “Edinburgh” drilling operation.
The operation involved sending a series of commands to Curiosity to tell the rover to drill a sample of rock from a location on the red planet named Edinburgh.
The sample was taken from sandstone on Mars – the first time it has been able to attack a sandstone drilling site since it had to create a new drilling method in 2018.
WHAT IS THE MARS CURIOSITY ROVER AND WHAT HAS IT DONE TO DATE?
The Mars Curiosity rover was originally launched from Cape Canaveral, an American Air Force station in Florida on November 26, 2011.
After embarking on a 350 million mile (560 million km) journey, the 1.8 billion pound ($ 2.5 billion) research vehicle landed just 2.4 km from the intended landing point.
After a successful landing on August 6, 2012, the rover has traveled approximately 11 miles (18 km).
It was launched on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft and the rover represented 23% of the total mission mass.
With 80 kg (180 lb) of scientific instruments on board, the rover weighs a total of 899 kg (1,982 lb) and is powered by a plutonium fuel source.
The rover is 2.9 meters (9.5 feet) long by 2.7 meters (8.9 feet) wide by 2.2 meters (7.2 feet) high.
The Mars Curiosity Rover was originally intended to be a two-year mission to gather information to help answer whether the planet could support life, have liquid water, study the climate and geology of Mars and has since active for more than 2000 days.
The rover was originally intended to be a two-year mission to gather information to help answer whether the planet could support life, have liquid water, study the climate and the geology of Mars.
Due to its success, the mission has been extended indefinitely and has now been active for more than 2,000 days.
The rover has several scientific instruments on board, including the mastcam which consists of two cameras and can take high resolution images and videos in real colors.
So far, during the journey of the car-sized robot, it has encountered an ancient stream bed where liquid water was flowing, shortly after also discovering that there are billions of For years, a nearby area known as Yellowknife Bay was part of a lake that could have supported microbial life.