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

It's anything but a "no-brainer." What we've found on almost every spacecraft, any time you build something, you design the interfaces, you have "interface agreements," you come up with how things should work, but when you plug them together for the first time you realize you didn't quite get it right. And so there's a lot of debugging in real time. In fact, one of the things that we will do down here in ATLO is really crawl along and test every signal on every line to make sure that we've got it right. Not only did we get it right, it's within the tolerances that we expect.

Once we've done that then we start to see how they "play" together. Things often times play very well alone, like little kids, and you put them together, sometimes two or three kids play great, and then you put four or five together, and then you get a bully in there and then they don't play well together. And we've got to figure out which one's are the "bullies," and which ones don't want to play, and we've got to make them play. Once we get them all playing together, we then have to take them up and put them in a space-flight simulation.

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