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To MARS with MER - RESEARCH/ers
Deputy Science Team Chief
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
Deborah Bass: I'm Dr. Deborah Bass and I am the Deputy Science Team Chief for the Mars Exploration Rover mission. What I actually do is I work in "communications." I'm trying to facilitate communications between the science team and the rest of the teams on the Mars Exploration Rovers mission. I work communications between people, and a lot of communication in software. I work a lot trying to make sure that the needs of the science team, what the science team is trying to communicate to the rest of the project, comes across properly. The science team has about 150 science team members and the rest of the team is broken up into smaller groups, but there are about 100 people other than that.
P2K: So one launch was July 7th and the other in June, and the landings are in January, 2004. So nothing's going on, right? Everybody's relaxing between launch and landing.
Deborah Bass: (Big smile) Wouldn't that be great?!? Boy, we could use the rest. Actually, we're working very hard. What we're doing right now is working to train our team on what we've kind of designed up to this point, as well as flying the spacecraft. The system that we've designed, we've got kind of what I call, a "relay race". It starts with receipt of data on the ground, and then the science team has to analyze it, figure out what they want to do with it, then we turn that high-level idea of "look at that rock over here", and turn that into a set of computer instructions that the spacecraft understands. And then once we figure out what we want to tell the spacecraft to do, we have to make sure it's not going to do something that would screw up the spacecraft! Because we certainly wouldn't want to crash it. So we "validate" it, it's called, and then we send that up to the spacecraft, at which point the spacecraft can execute - or carry out - that set of instructions. There's a bunch of handoffs of files that have to go from one person to the next, and those are kind of like the "batons" that we have in a relay race that we hand from one person to the next, and what we're doing now is training the team to run. We're training them to go through that relay race and make sure that the batons that they're handing off are appropriate.