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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 tests done on the Mars Exploration Rovers spacecraft

We simulate what it's like to actually launch: it's very rocky, very rough, so we vibrate it, we put it in an acoustic chamber, and basically we turn up the speakers real loud because when you launch on a rocket there's a really loud acoustical environment you have to survive. And then we put it in a "thermal vac" chamber, and we actually put it out in space on Earth. We suck out the air, put it in a vacuum, and we heat it up so it's exposed to the sunlight, or we cool it down so it's not, and the spacecraft has to be able to survive, and not only survive but thrive in that kind of environment.

We're doing things on the Mars Exploration Rovers mission that I have not had the opportunity, or the pleasure to do (on other projects) because we didn't have the resources up front. We're running "ATLO Readiness Tests", which I'd never heard of before. (P2K: But they would be called ARTs, just as Surface Operational Readiness Tests are called SORTs.) That's never been done, to the best of my knowledge, here at JPL. We're spending a lot of time getting all of our ATLO operators down here, before the hardware gets in, so that we know what to expect when they're here. The ATLO operations team is a mixture of people who've been here before-"been here, done that"-and people who've never been down to ATLO.

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