Live From Mars was active July 1996-December 1997.

UPDATE # 46 - July 18, 1997

PART 1: Jack Farmer WebChat: Change of Date
PART 2: MPF Team Journal #1: What a Rush!
PART 3: MPF Team Journal #2: What a Relief!
PART 4: MPF Team Journal #3: Much More Than Ever Expected
PART 5: Imaging Opportunities for Visual Learners
PART 6: Mars Pathfinder Update
PART 7: Subscribing & Unsubscribing: How to do it!

Jack Farmer WebChat: Change of Date

Thursday, July 24, 9 a.m., Pacific, Jack Farmer
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:

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 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.


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.


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.


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?...


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


[Editor's note: This status report was prepared by the Office of the
Flight Operations Manager, Mars Pathfinder Project, NASA Jet Propulsion

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.

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