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

P2K: "If you had a magic wand...and you could make this mission more likely to go smoothly for everybody, what would you do?"

Art Thompson: "In a perfect world, how would we do things? I don't really have an answer because what we're doing here... we're doing something that no one has done before, we're building things that no one has even thought of building before, and we're putting together a picture that we only have a rough idea of what it really needs to be. And in fact, even as we enter ATLO, we're still making changes to the spacecraft.

I would guess in a perfect world we could have unlimited schedule to build prototypes, to figure out exactly what it is you'd want to build, and then have lots of time to build the subsystem portion of it. Unfortunately, because of the rotation of the planets, we have a tight deadline. We've got to launch. So you come up with a concept for a mission... basically you know when you've got to launch that, and you don't have any opportunity to delay that launch. The planets align, you've got to launch or you miss that opportunity, and it could be as much as twenty-six, twenty-eight months later that you get an opportunity to launch again."

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