Wild About Mars, Sunday (Mark Adler and Jim Bell, Spirit Team; Bill Nye)

Opening comments. Exec. Director Louis Friedman says, “I’ve been in the planetary business for a long time and this is a weekend like no other.” (referring to both Comet encounter Friday and the Mars landing Sunday).

Wes Huntress, president of Planetary Society: 70 more images from the comet have been downloaded, stay tuned… Happy New Planetary Exploration Year– enjoy.

Bruce Betts, Dir. of Projects at Planetary Society (Red Rover goes to Mars): Starting out w/ 4 people who were participating in the process. Introducing a panel of…

Mark Adler , Spirit Mission Manager; Jim Bell from Cornell University; head of the Camera team on the science team, Courtney Dressing from Alexandria VA (Student Astronaut); and Rafael Morozowski from Brazil (Student Astronaut)

Mark Adler: This rocket science stuff isn’t as easy as it looks. We went through tremendous trials and tribulations. Worked on system for last 3.5 years. I’ve seen airbags burst open, parachute, solar ray cell manufacturer went out of business, Worked through each problem, made airbag stronger. redesigned parachute. We had another solar ray manufacturer, delivered to Cape in Florida at last minute. We continue to do development, robustness testing. We had the biggest solar storm ever experienced, both spacecraft went through it okay.

Yesterday, we discovered issues the day before, pyro devices. (many small pyro devices, 40 that have to fire in final stage) There were cases that pyro circuitry wasn’t working. We went through the consequences of the problem. Enable pyros to fire differently, very careful that late late change wouldn’t cause more problems than fixing. Thorough examination of code. Yesterday 5 hours before landing, uploaded the sequence and enabled the pyros to fire. So that’s one example of what this mission has been like all along.

It couldn’t have possibly been any better. We didn’t expect earth communications, the UHF communications. We didn’t know if Odyssey… we didn’t test our radio with their radio… It all worked. All passes since then have worked… We’ll deploy the lollipop [high-gain, i.e., high data-rate] antenna.

Jim Bell, on science team, in charge of the pan-cam, representing hundreds on the science team. We are all in awe of the job that mark and everyone did in getting the rover down safe on Mars… It’s a team effort. Team is very excited. We didn’t anticipate being this far along… Rover just work up a half hour ago, played Good Morning by the Beatles….

We’re in it for the long haul. Got a robot on the surface of Mars in good condition. It’s an extension of us. The eye is about as high as a 10-year old’s eye. No more simulation, but we’re going to be really do it… We’ve already begun detecting some interesting things, soil patches, rocks and color cameras first data down hours ago. working beautifully. First color images should go out this evening on the web. Resolution is 16x higher than this panorama you see here [onscreen].

What’s the next week going to be like? We’ll all have to be patient, b/c Mark n the engineering team have lots to do. Rover isn’t landed yet. The Lander’s on the surface on Mars, but rover is raised up on lander platform. All the things to happen may take all week… Then sometime next week, we’ll have 6 wheels on the dirt. We’ll a very high resolution panorama with the pan-cam; take several days to acquire, and many days to transfer to earth. Hopefully will begin to provide clues whether this is a lake bed, and some clues of the past of this planet. The team knows that people like you are behind them and supporting this effort.

Courtney: Thrilled to be inside operations and see how happy the scientist were.. to see what it was like when Mars landed. It was incredible. Looking forward to the rest of the time. I’m turning 16 in 2 days, I can’t have asked for a better birthday present. From human perspective, being inside operations was the best moment of my life.

Rafael: Yesterday we were at JPL, and I have to say. it was amazing to be there and be one of the first people to see the first pictures that came from Mars from Spirit. This whole week being at JPL was amazing… It was great to be alongside scientists of different kinds; see them discuss the different issues.. to know what is happening with the mission.

Now for Q and A….

Q: regarding the lander. What was the reason for cutting off the parachute just before landing…

A: The problem with landing slowly with the parachute is that it isn’t. Mars’ atmosphere is about 1%. If you just stayed on the parachute, it would not be good, So the rockets slow down… Rockets continue to fire (so the parachute doesn’t drop on top of the lander), rockets take it away, somewhere else, which is where we want it. [rockets take from 200 mph to 0]

Q: How long did it bounce, and how far did it go?

A: How many bounces: reconstruction team is working on it right now. They’ll be able to reconstruct it, maybe we can show an animation. 30 bounces, maybe, tho hasn’t seen the data.

Q: Right now what do you make of the rocks at this point?

A: It would be foolish to speculate, so I’ll go ahead and do it. It’s not too different from what we’d predicted from the surveyor and other data we’ve got. Bread-box sized boulders. There is an enormous number of small rocks. Angular and pointy. We haven’t seen any obvious evidence that the rocks we do see are sedimentary, metamorphic or igneous.

Color images just came down. Can announce: Mars is red. no big surprise, but it tells us that our color cameras are working correctly. Over days, when more data trickle in, you’ll hear more speculation….

Q (very young voice): How many days did it take to make Spirit?

A: Not enough. 3.5 years. project started ~ May 5 2000. Worked on constantly. One of the suggested names in house for the rovers were “weekend” and “holiday”

. . . . close out this section. Student Astronauts have comments posted somewhere on a website; will have to look for that and post link here…

Planetary Society along with Lego, sent along a DVD onboard the spacecraft.. with names of millions of people on the planet’s surface. Also the robots, Biff and Sandy.. decode messages

this is first privately-funded bit of hardware on planetary mission. Look on panorama on lower right… see the DVD. Also Bill Nye .. sundial, we’ll hear more about it. To help calibrate the panorama camera. also sponsored by Planetary Society. Sundial images with hour marks… which will be applied after-the-fact since the rover moves around…

Bill Nye on rocket science. People say it’s difficult. Their weight is changing all the time they’re flying… fuel is coming out the back, getting lighter and lighter. In figuring things out the first time… happens on the back of a napkin…take that idea and make it spectacular.

By clerical error, I got into Cornell University. Had a professor there, Carl Sagan. I was in class when the Viking mission landed on Mars.. they cost *billions* of dollars (pun intended). Pathfinder mission in 1997 cost 320 million dollars. To you and me, a lot, but to the U.S. Government. Not a lot of money.

interviewing young girl: Kyla… to help with the demo. fragile: showing eggs… challenge is to land the egg on the surface of the Pasadena center. We need a space capsule. holds up a yellow notepad. Using these intricate instruments shown here. (a rule, a hole puncher, tape). Need to make a tetrahedron. (do you know what that is? -no. -Do you speak any Greek? -No. But I speak Spanish). tetra: triangle divided into more triangles. Pyramid.. pyramids in Egypt have 5 sides. 4 seen and bottom.

She’s folding the triangle, and punching holes into it. Kyla, do you have a 1-meter long piece of string? No, I have that. It’s just like a cooking show…. Tie up the triangle. put the egg inside the tied-up tetrahedron.

Parachute.. use fabulous newspaper (Pasadena star news), folded into square, cut corners off, and make into what kinda shape? Kyla: a stop sign.. but it doesn’t have the word STOP on it.,

tie precision string to precision shaped parachute. Don’t want the parachute to come off of the lander, else that would be a drag. (It wouldn’t be enough of a drag.)

I encourage everyone to try this… This idea that rocket is really difficult, well, you have to try little tests just like this.

So you tie the payload (that’s the thing you pay for. Pay for eggs, and a rover with a camera is something that you gotta pay for). Now is blowing up balloons… (she doesn’t want to; he: you can hire people to do that) Blow up several balloons. Don’t think that static electricity will keep them. taping them to the lander.

Stand on the table… holding it up. she does countown 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… you didn’t drop it at one. (okay, so he dropped it at [the silent] zero).

recovered the lander… opened it up, and lo, the egg was there, intact!!!