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Bridget Landry
Deputy Uplink Systems Engineer
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

What I Do

My official title is deputy uplink systems engineer, but what I really do is teach the computers on the ground to speak the same language as the spacecraft. I have taken a very complex, but general computer program and made it understand all the commands that the Mars Pathfinder knows. The people on the science and instrument teams then use this tool to build sets of commands called sequences, which, when sent to the spacecraft, accomplish a specific task: take pictures of an area around the lander, turn a particular instrument on for a certain length of time and use a specific setting, that sort of thing. In addition, I train people to use this tool, to update it as changes to the command set are made and once we launch, to help coordinate all the sequences that need to be sent in a specific time period so we don't use too much power, or try to point the camera in two directions at once, etc. (Other people will be checking these things too, but having several people on it means we're much more confident we won't do something wrong.)

My Career Journey

I've always wanted to work in the space program, ever since I was a little girl watching the moon landings. In school, I studied chemistry and planetary science, did research experiments into the reactions of gases caused by exposure to sparks, and analyzed pictures (from the Mariner 9 mission) of Mars' south pole to study its polar cap. I sort of fell into working on missions when I got a job working on the Hubble Space Telescope for one of my old teachers. I worked on an oceanographic satellite called Topex, which is collecting buckets of data about ocean currents that will help make weather forecasting more accurate. On Topex, I built the sequences; on Pathfinder, I've moved up the line, working on building the sorts of tools that I used on Topex.

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