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Matt Wallace
Assembly, Test, and Launch Operations (ATLO) Manager
Mars Exploration Rovers mission
NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, California

"Certainly driving submarines around is exciting and challenging, and in one particular aspect it has a lot of commonality with what I am doing now, and that's that you end up working with just the best of the best people in that particular field, the nuclear submarine field, just draws some outstanding minds, and you end up forming these very cohesive and capable teams, and that's exactly what we had on this project in ATLO, and I love that. That's what I get up every day for, because I just really enjoy being in a situation where you have a tremendously capable team, like we have here on the Mars Exploration Rovers mission in our ATLO and integration team. And in working with these guys, they amaze me every day. They are easy to lead." (interview at KSC, May 23, 2003)

Experience on the Mars Pathfinder mission (1996-1997)
I was one of two people who coordinated the operations of the Mars Pathfinder Rover. The first thing the Rover Team had to do was to quickly figure out if Sojourner survived the landing (Sojourner was the official name of the Rover), and that all her systems were still operating properly. Sojourner then had to make the dangerous journey off the Lander petal and onto the surface of Mars. This was a difficult and complex operation that required good timing between the Lander and Rover, and a keen eye for understanding the Martian terrain using the pictures the Lander was sending back to Earth. Until we got off the Lander petal, the Rover blocked the Lander solar array, forcing the Lander to use limited battery resources. Once Sojourner made it off the Lander, we sent her sets of instructions about where to go, what experiments to do, and which rocks to investigate each day. This lasted for many weeks.

To accomplish all of this, there were teams of Rover engineers doing many different things (one group analyzed the data sent back, other engineers and scientists analyzed the pictures, and still others prepared the instructions to be sent back up to the Rover.) I helped coordinate activities among them.

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