Live From Mars WebChat

Date: July 1, 1997

Featuring: Bridget Landry
Deputy Uplink Systems Engineer
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA

Sandy: NASA CHAT HOST: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:01PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Welcome everyone! Bridget Landry is now here. Bridget is the deputy uplink systems engineer, which means she teaches computers on the ground to speak the same language as the Pathfinder spacecraft. In other words, she takes very complex, but general computer programs and makes them understand all the commands that the Mars Pathfinder knows. Bridget will bring us up to date on all the pre-landing activities the spacecraft is going through.

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:02PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Greetings, all!

vaughn/pilgrim: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:03PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget/JPL: Is Pathfinder's code harder to learn than computer languages?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:06PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Vaughn: Pathfinder's language is very similar to several other computer languages, so it's about the same. More like learning your third or fourth human language--they're easier than your first or second.

Vince/Boeing: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:04PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Hi Bridget, things must really be 'heating' up around JPL?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:07PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Vince: Oh, yes! Things are really jumping here! Lots of visitors, lots of last minute tasks, lots of excitement!

vaughn/pilgrim: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:06PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Briget: Since the signal used in pathfinder is digital, does that mean that it can't be disturbed by solar flares?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:08PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
vaughn: No, any radio or TV transmission can be affected by solar flares.

larry/ocu: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:07PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget, what on-line and textual materials would you recommend for people who would like to learn about the type of programming that you do?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:09PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Larry: that's hard to say, since every project is different. I would say that learning several computer languages, as well as some electronics (so you understand the instruments) would be the best preparation.

vaughn/pilgrim: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:10PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Briget/JPL: I know this isn't really your field but: When Pathfinder aerobrakes could it be possibly that there are a lack of molecules, that slow down the craft, and thatwith a lack of them, Pathfinder could go into Mars too fast?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:12PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Vaugh: Mars' atmosphere is very thin, but this was taken into account when Surveyor's aerobraking was planned. It's not as effective on Mars as it would be on Venus, but it'll work.

larry/ocu: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:10PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
What computer languages are most relevant to your work?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:13PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Larry: Fortran, C, C++, perl and Java are the most relevant to the work on Pathfinder.

vaughn/pilgrim: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:11PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget: Could the spacecraft be reprogrammed to go to, say the moon, after mars to study the moon?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:14PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Vaugh: Once Pathfinder lands on Mars, it'll be there forever, as it has no way to take off again, so no, it would not be able to study the Moon after Mars.

Vince/Boeing: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:12PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Has your programing overlapped with Mars Global Suryeor?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:15PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Vince: How to answer that politically correctly! :-) Yes, and no; they are using some of our ground system, but not all of it.

larry/ocu: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:14PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Can you tell us anything about the specific role Java played in your project?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:15PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Larry: Java is being used in the downlink side, and I'm on the uplink side. Sorry!

vaughn/pilgrim: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:16PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Guess id better learn java befoure i attempt to learn anything else in programming!

vaughn/pilgrim: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:14PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Briget/JPL: Since the Pathfinder's system is like a "mini-computer" could it be possible for a virus to be put into it by mistake,(it didnt happen but) could that be done by some bad person in the future?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:17PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Vaugh: Guarding against viruses and incorrect commands is one of the reasons that some of our commanding system is secret! It is, technically, possible, but someone would have to set up their own (strong!) transmitter, which could probably be detected.

Vince/Boeing: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:15PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Will a simulation be active in parallel with actual Pathfinder activites (entry/landing/deployment)?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:19PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Vince: Once we get the first pictures back, we will set up our "sandbox" to resemble it, so that we can explore place to send the rover, and which rocks we want pictures of.

Stephanie: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:16PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget, in your bio, you said you studied chemistry and planetary science, and you did experiments and stuff. How did you get into the job of computer programming?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:20PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Stephanie: I did a lot of programming in school, to analyze my data, and make computer models of atmospheres, etc. When I needed a job, those skills got me one when there were no lab jobs to be had.

Sandy: NASA CHAT HOST: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:16PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Vaughn: What grade are you in and are you currently in summer school?

vaughn/pilgrim: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:18PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Sandy: going into 10th grade. No im not in summer school.

larry/ocu: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:17PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Can you tell us a little about what your uplink duties are and will be as the project continues?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:21PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Larry: My main duties are to process the imaging commands into spacecraft files, once the scientists decide which rocks they want to look at, with which filters. I also double-check the scientists files, to make sure what they've built and what they said they wanted are the same.

vaughn/pilgrim: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:19PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Learning the details about pathfinder makes you feel like you know exactly whats going to happen when it lands on mars, which makes it less fun, oh well.

Sandy: NASA CHAT HOST: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:22PM PDT (-0700 GMT)BR> Vaughn: Not tree! It makes you informed! You can help us spread the word about Pathfinder!

Vince/Boeing: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:20PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
I keep rehearsing the landing and deployment in my head! Is that normal? "and I don't even work there"

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:22PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Vince: You can join me! I dreamt about it last night! I guess you're really hooked!

John/South Milwaukee: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:22PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Have the events on MIR had any impact on your mission?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:23PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
John: I don't think the Mir problems have had much impact on our mission, with the possible exception of focusing more media attention on us--will we screw up, too!? Hope not!

vaughn/pilgrim: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:22PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget/JPL: Its funny people had no clue there was a spacecraft going to Mars,becuase they arent informed, but then all of a sudden they hear,wow! A spacecraft's going to Mars!, they would already know that if they used the internet, and they could be here right now too!

larry/ocu: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:26PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Recent news suggests that dust storm reports on Mars shouldn't affect the July 4 landing. Correct?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:27PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Larry: Unfortunately, we don't have any choice about when we land, so let's hope it doesn't affect it. Viking had to delay its landing by two weeks or so, because of dust storms.

Vince/Boeing: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:26PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Will there be an 'on line' activity as events unfold friday morning?

Sandy: NASA CHAT HOST: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:29PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Vince: Yes, there will be several online activities for you to watch on July 4. Go to the Live From Mars top page and click on "What's Hot" and "More Hot." button

John/South: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:26PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
What classes would you suggest a student in high school take to prepare them for work in your area?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:29PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
John: Take all the math and science you can, but I would also recomend some philosophy and languages: the first because it makes you think about how you think, second because it keeps your mind limber, and makes it easier to learn computer languages, I think.

vaughn/pilgrim: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:26PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget: Is the rover going to navigate to Cydonia,to take pics of the "pyramids"? I HOPE SO!!!!

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:30PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Vaugh: The rover will not be ranging that far. It should only go about 10 meters from the lander, at least for the first month or so.

vaughn/pilgrim: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:29PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget: since mars "destroys" water on the surface, wouldn't all the blood in youre body be "destroyed" also if you were on mars?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:31PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Vaugh: Did you see "Total Recall"? Everything in that was wrong. The pressure on Mars is so low that your blood would boil and freeze at the same time, just like in space. Blech!

larry/ocu: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:30PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
There has been talk recently in public sources about the possibility of using Martian resources to produce fuel for possible human exploration of the planet. Do you think this is a feasible idea?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:33PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Larry: I think it's plausible, but it would depend heavily on how close to the surface and in what form some elements are. Luckily, this is part of what Pathfinder will determine. (Shameless plug!)

vaughn/pilgrim: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:30PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget/JPL: Do you know if the rover will be navigated into Cydonia, if it is still operating and all other tasks have been acomplished?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:34PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Vaugh: Sorry! Don't know how close Cydonia is to our landing site. Mars is a big place.

Sandy: NASA CHAT HOST: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:31PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget: I read in NASA's press release today that images taken by Hubble show the atmosphere of Mars to be BLUE and not PINK/RUSTY as Viking showed us. What's up with this?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:35PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Sandy: Actually, it's kinda like the sky in LA--if it's smoggy, it's brown, if it's clear, it's blue. Same thing with Mars: if there's red dust in the air, the sky will be pink; if not, it'll be blue. Can change on the order of a week, just like LA. Can't wait to see it!

vaughn/pilgrim: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:34PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget: They said on tv it wouldn't be searching for life, is that correct?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:36PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Vaugh: Most of Pathfinder's instruments are minerological, so that we can determine what the rocks and soil are made of. Viking looked more for life and less at the rocks, so we decided to slant things the other way this time, so that we would get new info.

Vince/Boeing: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:34PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget/Sandy - have to go :-(THANKS! I can hardly wait until friday..... GOOD LUCK!

Sandy: NASA CHAT HOST: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:35PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bye Vince. So glad you could join us again!

Vince/Boeing: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:36PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
My pleasure!

vaughn/pilgrim: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:36PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget: could you suggest to nasa officials that, once all other rover tasks, are completed, it will be navigated to Cydonia ( or as close as it can get to it)?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:37PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Vaugh: Why don't you write to Dr. Golden and suggest it?

vaughn/pilgrim: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:39PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget :good idea, i doubt he will do anything about my request!

Stephanie: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:37PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget/JPL: Do you think surveyor can photograph Pathfinder? That would be a first. Anyways, could both spacecraft interfere with each other's signals? That would be funny, the face on mars on every Pathfinder photo!

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:40PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Stephanie: Actually, that is in the plan. Surveyor will try to take pictures of Pathfinder's landing site at high resolution. Probably won't be good enough to see the rover, but it should see something that sorta looks like the lander. (1 m/pixel resolution)

Sandy: NASA CHAT HOST: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:37PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Everyone: There's still 15 minutes before Bridget has to get back to her real job so SEND YOUR QUESTIONS IN NOW!

vaughn/pilgrim: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:38PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget: who will be controlling the rover? And does he know exactly where to navigate-before it touches down?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:41PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Vaugh: Brian Cooper drives the rover, and he can't know where to go until we get there and take pictures. That's why we staff around the clock.

larry/ocu: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:39PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget: A special thanks to you and your colleagues for sharing your thoughts and feelings about this project as it has developed. The field journals were especially valuable.

Sandy: NASA CHAT HOST: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:41PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget: What's July 4 going to look like for you? What time will you get up to go to work (since PF lands on Mars at 10 a.m.)?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:43PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Sandy: I start work at 11 pm, looking at the images that have been downlinked and helping to build imaging sequences to take pictures of where the rover ends up, and interesting rocks, etc. Shift ends about 9:30 the next morning.

vaughn/pilgrim: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:42PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
BRIDGET: Will the pictures be on TV first or the INTERNET?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:45PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Vaugh: Probably just about the same time. There will be closed-circuit TV which will show the images as soon as we get them, plus CNN and NASA Select will have them at that time Then, just about the same time, they will appear on our WebSite at:

vaughn/pilgrim: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:46PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget: than tv is the best bet, becuase it is the very fastest :)

Stephanie: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:44PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Sandy, can you use MIRC in this chat? Does your computer take a long time to refresh the chat page? Mine sometimes takes almost 5 min. :o ZZZZZZZZZ

Sandy: NASA CHAT HOST: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:45PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Stephanie: I'm sorry, but I have no idea what MIRC is. What is it? Trying setting your refresh rate to zero.

Stephanie: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:47PM PDT (-0700 GMT)

John/South: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:47PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Do you know what you will work on next? Or do they keep you in the dark until this mission is totally over?

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:49PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
John: That's actually a good question. I don't know exactly how long I'll work on Pathfinder, but I've already started working part-time on a pre-pre-pre-project to go to Europa and melt through the ice, then release a submarine. Sounds like science fiction, huh? So did Pathfinder, originally!!!

Sandy: NASA CHAT HOST: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:48PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Last questions anyone! If not, Bridget will get back to the spacecraft!

Sandy: NASA CHAT HOST: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:50PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget: Thank you so much for taking time out of your hectic schedule to join us today! We wish you the best luck on Friday and look forward to chatting with you again soon! ALL THE BEST!

Bridget/JPL: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:51PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Thanks for all the great questions and good wishes! I'll be thinking of you all on Friday!

vaughn/pilgrim: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:52PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bridget: try to get lots of sleep!

Sandy: NASA CHAT HOST: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:54PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Thanks to all of you for the great questions you sent Bridget! Please be sure to sign up for the remaining WebChats on every Tuesday for the rest of July!!!

larry/ocu: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:55PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Sandy: Thanks for all your efforts in putting these opportunities together.

Sandy: NASA CHAT HOST: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 2:56PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Larry: You're welcome! I love this stuff :-)

larry/ocu: . . . . Tue, Jul 1, 3:00PM PDT (-0700 GMT)
Bye, all. Keep the faith on the 4th!