Thursday, January 15, 2004  [!]
By Frank Sietzen Jr. and Keith L. Cowing. Cowing runs the Nasawatch site. First in a series of 3 articles.

1/15/04; 11:12:22 AM | Space | Discuss | # | |

3am news conference. [rough quotes, filled with typos. Also being blogged -- along with egress-- over at adot's notblog*. He's really gotten into the swing of things with his daily press briefings. He got stuff that I missed. Heh. Prolly vice versa]

Charles Elachi, director of JPL. Less than 24 hours ago, President Bush announced new robotic mission and exploration. In less than 24 hours, we're delivering.

Last night as i left the lab for my 2 hours sleep, I looked up and saw Mars, and I was in awe that we are there. Millions have looked up and wondered what's up there... and here we are. A word of thanks to all who've been part of it.

Pete Theisinger (wearing his 'My other car... is on Mars' tee shirt): Has happened through the efforts of many. We get to do this all again in nine days.

Jennifer Tropser: In keeping with tradition... (she pulls out a champagne bottle, opens it up, pours for people on dais). 9 sols. On this occasion, I would like to make a toast to all who make it possible to get six wheels on Mars.... Long, sustained applause.

Our to do list for today: get some images from Mars, meet the vice President, drive a rover onto Mars. As a young girl growing up in Ohio, I never dreamed I'd be doing this.

More thank yous: To hardware designers. A team w/ responsibility to build spacecraft in very short team. Matt Wallace led the ATLA team, did excellent job, Thank you very much. Sustained applause. woots. Another team that doesn't work in the operation center. WOrking in testbed, John Worth and testbed team, driving rover and doing the same things there... A team that at point of launch had to fly the spacecraft.. the Cruise team, led by Mark Adler and Jim Ericson. done a great job.. now the good news is that all the cruise people get to work surface operations. More sustained applause. Of course I can't skip over the EDL [entry, descent and landing] and Navigation teams for doing the impossible; thank you Rob [Manning]. Another team we don't recognize because their product works so well: the flight software team had an incredible job getting all the [lists different jobs, missed details] Glen Reeves and ...[missed name] software architects. I know I am forgetting a couple of teams. A couple specific people I want to mention... One person who's been the heartbeat of the project: Richard Cook, deputy project manager. For impact to egress, Joel Krajewski you own the time from landing on surface to the point we drive off the lander. He enthusiastically embraced that (at the time; laughter). Acknowledges those to her left... Kevin Burke, Chris Lewicki (who'll be speaking next)

Kevin Burke: Queue up a couple of animations and a test. Show you what we thought we were going to do and what we did. Egress activity that we dry-ran, product of good planning and excellent execution (with props to appropriate teams). Animation put together in short notice. Turn in place, heading to alternate plaths. 3 egress paths. Last bit of footage: Not a cartoon. advanced software to replay true kinematics tells where we are in inertial space to show what we've been doing. Replay of mobility.

A great sigh of relief for me. How we got to be here: A 3-year effort, I came back to lab at April 2001, we've (he and two people to his left) been hanging out together for the better part of 3 years, trying to work the problem in trying to get egress working. Doesn't sound like a lot, but... working with rover design. To make sure we had all pockets right. Mobility team, worked to make sure we were w/in our capability. ALso involved people who don't work at the lab: makers of airbags and the ramps. They were a huge, huge part of getting us where we are today. The system as a whole: this phase is very intertwined. Starts with airbags, depends on what side we land on, base petal or side petal. It was a lot of work. I'm really glad to be here and I'm really really glad to be on the surface of Mars. Being the last piece of hardware, between landing and being on the surface of mars is very, very stressful. [the one ahead of him in line of deployment said,] "Mobility works. Ball's in your court"

Chris Lewicki: Good Afternoon. (laughter; it's 3-something am) I've had a good time in the last 12 days. I grew up in rural northern Wisconsin, surrounded by dairy farms, and I wanted to do space stuff, so I came out here.. Jennifer's talking about her to do list. [We, or I] said a few days ago "Spirit is a rover" Now I can say, "Spirit is a rover...on Mars" (applause). Lots of steps.. good to have a roomful of people who are the best at what they do. We have the distincetion of being the first people to use the Rover. ATLA was mentioned. We only began putting it together a year and a half ago. It was a bucket of bolts, parts... and today it's where it was intended to be. I worked in the assembly process... was fortunate to be involveed with everything that moves (vs electronics and bolts and that hold everything together) They only have about [mentions some shortish distance] They're pretty new vehicles, they have that fresh rover smell. To get an extraordinary suite of instruments onboard. We've invited the science team to come and tell us every day stuff they've been finding out before they announce it to the press. You're so in the center of it that you don't have the time to see what's flying by. We're driving the nice sports car, but in the end we're the valets.. handing over the keys to the science team.

The 12 days of Egress... [describes unreal test experiences, pushing envelope of what's possible] and now the reality is good. We've been able to make decisions based on real data (laughter from MER team). To see everyone in there, doing their work, their job... It's amazing [chokes up] ...and of course we're here because they've done their job very well. Opportunity is coming up in 9 days. Looking forward to doing it again.

Joel Krajewski: 3 years ago it was we began, and one of my first hires was Chris Lewicki (previous speaker)-- good hire. At landing, Rob Manning declared "we have landed" but I haven't beleived it. We've been approximately 47cm above the surface. But tonight we have landed. It's the fisrt time we've used our surface software. First time the rover shuts itself off and then wakes itself up again to talk to us. (acknowldegement of team). A gentlemen [w/ Viking] said this is the most complex deployment plan that he's seen. We've gone from 6 minutes of terror EDL, to 12 days of ITE and the rover is now free... A bunch of acknowledgements. and yes, is there life on Mars, we're there to find it out. I'd answer it yes, there is life on Mars and we put it there.

Q: what time, earth time was signal sent up to Mars and how long to hear back?

A: Command sent up at approx 1 oclock am. 20 minutes later, we got a beep (ten up, ten back) saying we got message... Attitude unknown. 1:50 we were on surface.

Q: Learn from your experince from egress.. see anything different w/opportunity?

A: One thing: as much as I wanted to try pulling in those airbags, but got vetoed. Would like to make a forward pass. Internal to airbags are a bunch of cords. When inflation's done, deflate, pull in those cords. We don't know why some airbags ended up places we don't expect.

How we land is unknown. We ended up upright... so we made conscious decisions to retract airbags in certain way. If we land side petal down, we'll do something different. If we land base petal down again, we'd have a change [based on our experience here]. Keep in mind. This was a singular example of what we can end up with on Mars. Meridiani is a whole new ball game.

Q: More back and forth on nitpicking time of egress. Speed rover was moving?

A: Egress: drive is a 78 second duration to go 3 meters. That's 3.48 cm/second.

Q something about rotation

A: turned 115 degrees to the right.

Q: How far is rover from lander? What's up next?

A: 80 cm from the lander. 3 days of IDD operations, mostly with robotic arm. Plan right now is to drive in about 3 or 4 days.

A: Sol 13: deploy the arm, hover it over the soil. look at the RAT (rock abrasion tool), do a health check on instrument, and then hover over ground (but not touch), and do microscopic look at what's beneath.

Q: Did anything go wrong for egress? Was there anything about egress that worried you?

A: Kevin: [Told a big story about last minute worry of getting something caught during egress, and went to the test bed and "retired that risk in a destructive and satisfying manner" -- in testing, they ended up tearing off a piece of the lander]. My favorite picture of mars--bar none--is...the one from the rear hazcam with tracks.

Chris: The worst thing that can happen is that the rover flip over and land on its head. First good sign: we hear back; signal is a good sign. Then we get data. The third sign: The picture you see there.

Overall announcement: No 9 am briefing. Will move morning briefings to 10 am Friday earth time, in keeping with the advancing Mars day.

[note: there were several mentions about "being on Mars time" -- who is on Mars Time and who is not (or who is on Earth time), and how so-and-so messed up being on Mars time in order to be here....]

1/15/04; 3:17:04 AM | Space | Discuss | # | |

Tuned into NASA TV. (this item will keep getting updated; all is rough paraphrase)

Rob Manning is being interviewed... Chris is giving a noontime lecture in Mission Control (noontime on Mars). Allows the rover to cool off and rest, and the team at mission control started having lectures where different people in different discipines of the mission share their expertise with everyone else. Two different noon hours, for day shift (mars day, of which this is at 1am local time) and night shift (mars night).

A description of a test on the rover onlab, and how they were able to carefully control the rolling of wheels up to the very edge of the petal (diving board).

About the wheels: A person named Chris is doing a FAQ on them. Why aren't there any cleats (As per Pathfinder Sojourner)? Problem with snagging on airbags. Had to downgrade wheel ability to grab rocks in order to ensure they get off the rover. (pointing to wheel with ribs on it) Have ribs rather than cleats. That's why the outside of the wheel doesn't look like the Sojourner wheel.

Reference image, from the JPL Family Day visit:

rover wheel:
The other side, not facing the camera, is totally open. (You can make out my hand on the inside surface of wheel)

Why the spiral? crazed aesthetics? No, the vehicle's mass and drop-loads (600 pounds) had mass sufficient to damage important equipment. So needed to have suspension flexibility to absorb energy. It's integrating a spring into the wheel. Also needed to have a large opening into the wheel where the wheel motor and steering (actuators) live. Needed to use as much open volume inside the wheel. So the spring element got pushed out all the way to the hub. There were some 35 wheel design iterations in less than a year's time. This was the best option. Long path of flex (the spiral part) in a compact package.

What's up with that thing? (A hole in the wheel on rolling surface). [you can almost see it on low end of wheel just in front of forearm in above image] A little restraint pad underneath each wheel. Keep the wheel and suspension assembly in place during launch, cruise, landing, and part of prep for egress was letting go of those.

What's up with the orange stuff? Why are the wheels orange? Putting the flexors on the outside staretd another possible problem. Needed a gap-filler for the wheel that would allow the flexors to flex, but block debris from getting in. A closed-cell foam.

Why is the surface black? [not in image above; but in final, actual wheels] The rolling surface is anodized so that wheel piece and the base (also aluminum) don't get stuck together over 7 month journey. There's also some lubrication. An anodized aluminum surface fails differently than a plain aluminum does, in a better way. So wear and tear won't get jagged edges (regular aluminum) but little bits that break off.

What about the Hub cap? Mention of a company in Arcadia that anodized the NASA meatball [circular blue NASA logo] on 'em, but cameras don't look at that part of rover, so no one will ever see them...

Concluded with a movie from the test bed- an egress off the lander petals. Quite a drop, it almost falls off and pitches over, but it worked, by golly!

Kevin Burk, Egress Hardware Engineer also talks through egress using the lander panel with a flap set to 45 degree angle. He shows testbed video that's less of a knuckle-biter than the previous test video.

Rear hazcam is the one with the image. Most important one to watch for as far as finding out what happened. [it'll looking back at the lander]

Rob Manning: BTW, the egress is over (1:19am) but in order for the rover to report, pictures have to be taken, and the 2 navcams will look for the sun, and from that, identify where North is, and then point the high-gain antenna, and give the signal.

So the break is to allow all these things to transpire, and wait to see how well it went.

This--getting the vehicle on the ground--is the end of landing.

Steve Squyres is now talking: Short term plan (first two weeks of surface operations). Keep several things in mind: Safety. Don't want to stress the system. First deployments to be clean, straightforward and as free of risk as possible when you're operating a robot on mars.

Two. Finding the unusual things is the goal, the un-typical. So need to get baseline of the "characteristic," the typical. Rover likened to a swiss army knife, bring all tools to bear on key geologic material.

Several fixed events. Two key events: Tomorrow: sol 13, Mars Express Orbiter. We'll be doing coordinated international observation of planet. Sensors from above and below at the same time [from two different crafts run by two different countries]. With this science going on and then Opportunity's landing coming up, things'll get pretty hot in here (mission control) Sol. 22, 23, 24, we'll have a 3 day stand-down when Opportunity lands. Script things ahead of time, ease the burden on the team. That requires significant advance planning to be in teh right place.

General plan immediate term. Looking at the panorama, poitns to an area in foreground (general direction of sleepy hollow). Want to get good clean characteriazation of what rocks look like w/o dirt, and what dirt looks like w/o any rocks. Not easily done with spot. Area has both, but it's good for instrument positioning, so they'll be looking at area... First few sols on this patch of dirt with the IDD (?) and get first pictures, esp with microscopic.

Then get rock first followed by soil. During standown, do soil. At end of Sol 21, get rover to some place where Mossbauer spectrum can do examination (MOssbauer is temperature sensitive). a Mossbauer integration, overnight/ 6-8 hours. Temperature changes significantly. Better do several back-to-back intergrations, when temp changes. But park long enough that multi-sol intergration so each temperature-range intergration has additional time to process [or whateverit does].

names this the wasabi region: sushi, sashimi. Another, closer, called Pyramid. For rock analysis. Do we RAT it? comments about size and height... If we "rat this sucker" we won't be able to drive to a place where there's soil. Some soil closeby, do standown there. Or, don't rat and go to sleepy hollow, if things go well.

So.. onto the longer term plan. We are here (pointing to the top view of Gusev/Spirit position with the "go to this crater and turn right" yellow lines drawn on it). Discussion of how to get at layers of terrain/rock. Other than drilling down, looking at the ejecta fields near crater to see what kind of material might reveal different rock layers.

Head for the hills. Plus get a view from up the hill looking back where we came from.

In panorama, crater is in opposite direction from sleepy hollow.

Q; Do you distinguish between soil and windblown dust? A: Yes, soil is ground-down

This is a night that is extraordinarily rich and significant for all of us. A shared adventure unlike any other in human history. An event we share with the whole world. An adventure I'm proud to share with teh people in this room. So if I get all choked up and run around and hug everybody, please bear with me.

Rob Manning: this direct-to-earth connection is more like an internet connection, things come over bit by bit...


and now......

a reply of video from 12:20 am local time, when they sent the command to the rover to egress:

Applause: Sent command to do the 3 meter drive....

egress song: Rollin' Rollin' Rollin..... Keep those dogies rolling. Rawhide.

Now is silent waiting.

We have carrier and lock! Applause. Radio signal. DSN has lock on carrier. Data should be coming down soon assuming antenna is working okay.

Rob Manning: Waiting for the DSN to bring data package. We're getting data, very likely images. Expect rear hazcam image [lookign back at the lander] will be among the first. (prolly, Rob mayn't have latest info). Data is streaming in. Engineering info, on tilt. Packets come in slowly at first.

Attitude control has figured that rover's flat. Driven 3 meters. Actuators say they've driven 3 meters.

"Sounds like it was a nice trip. All we need are the pictures"

they're queueing up commands to send for the next batch, once they receive confirmation

"something something. That's an indication that we probalby went down the ramp." "Copy that." Applause.

Imaging data is coming down. Thumbnail with lander in the background. Applause woo-hoos. very enthusiastic. Looking back at lander.

The rover has landed. hugs. We are on Mars! At front, looks like a congratulory hand-over. A bunch of roses handed to Jennifer Trosper. Tee shirt presented to Pete Theisinger: My Other Car is On Mars. Also someone holds up license plate holder, legacy hardware from Pathfinder mission, stating: My Other Car is On Mars.

song: Who let the dogs out! who who who!

Six wheels in the dirt. with tracks. Applause.

(Crud. right as the pictures start coming through, the server this site is hosting on is down with a minor outage. I can't update this. So there'll be a backlog when the server goes back up.)

Rob Manning: commentary about the pano of the rover's pano. Looking at the front hazcam. There's the rock (pyramid) and sleepy hollow in teh background. A picture that's a remapped self-portrait. mars rock all around: On the surface of Mars.

[sorry, missed some commentary] Rob Manning continues: This is the moemnt where now the engineering team is handing things over to science team; Engineering team is now supporting science team. Making sure that the rover's healthy.

News conference at 2:45 am. They're checking out of mission control.

meanwhile watch as a command is sent up....

wow: The One True b!X' has pictures of the egress hazcam thumbnails already!

1/15/04; 1:05:19 AM | Space | Discuss (1 response) | # | |

Will have computer. Will blog. It all begins at 12:45 am, and the post-egress wrapup is at 2am (Pacific). Check out C-SPAN if you don't have access to NASA-TV and you're up and feeling Egressive.

1/15/04; 12:21:44 AM | Space | Discuss | # | |

LIke many of the people I talked to, I had decided that it was unlikely that anything new would be said in his speech, especially after Bush’s announcement from NASA Headquarters, and that it would essentially waste the whole afternoon. But, along with most everyone else, I ended up heading over to the mall anyways, because how often does the VPOTUS come to your workplace, after all?

heh. Most everyone else except for those who have review deadlines staring them in the face. I have it on good authority that an email went out urging people to "go out to the mall now, we need more people there for Cheney's visit." Was it because people were working up until the last minute before their afternoons got shot by the distinguished visitor and someone panicked that the place looks too un-crowded?

1/15/04; 12:18:56 AM | Space | Discuss (1 response) | # | |