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Art Thompson
ATLO Systems Lead
Mars Exploration Rovers mission
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
(ATLO: Assembly, Test and Launch Operations.)

On the final stages of ATLO-launch operations

We launch at about 2:16 in the afternoon, but we'll be coming in, turning lights on, at about 5:30 in the morning. We'll be powering on the spacecraft knowing that this is the last time we get to talk to her on Earth. We're going to be doing things very slowly and deliberately. We've been going through our countdown and launch practices now for a couple of weeks, although we've been working on the procedures for probably ten months. We have a few more countdown practices to go, but I imagine that the nine hours that we'll be operating the spacecraft up until the time we light the candle, the intensity will just be ratcheting up minute by minute. And by the time we get down to the last, say, sixty minutes, it's going to be excruciatingly painful watching that clock tick, double checking all of the telemetry, making sure that we've got the spacecraft in the exact configuration that we need to.

The last two commands to switch to internal power and finally arm the pyro bus for the last time, and validating that she's armed and ready to go, that will be very intense. They'll be a lot of nervous people here, very excited people.

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