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To MARS with MER - RESEARCH/ers

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

P2K: We had first spoken with Art during the first week of ATLO, on March 1, 2002. But then we caught up with him again in late May 2003, getting ready for launch. We asked him to look back over the months that had passed.

P2K: "What's been the biggest 'up' and the biggest 'down' in the whole ATLO process?

Art Thompson: "I think the biggest 'up' is to see two spacecraft come together so quickly. In fact, if you think about it, MER-2 is not even a year old yet. It was born on July 1 (2002), when we got our first piece of hardware in, and we're going to be launching before she's a year old. MER-1 was born in March and really didn't get her flight computer until around June. To see these two spacecraft come together in under a year and get ready for flight is amazing.

Some of the low points are when we have it all built up, and we think we're pretty much 'good to go' for launch, and we realized we had to tear it down to fix a circuit in one of our boards. We built it back up, got it all back together, thought we were pretty much good to fly again, and we found another problem, and that actually threatened launch. But we've worked through that and we're back on the upside.

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