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To MARS with MER - RESEARCH/ers

Rob Manning
Entry, Descent and Landing Operations Manager
Mars Exploration Rovers mission
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

P2K: Your kids are getting older, as are Dick Cook's kids... Wayne's kids. The Mars Exploration Rovers mission takes long hours away from the family... Why spend time on this???

Rob Manning: Oh, man... you know, working... I have to admit... working on missions... I came to JPL to work on missions that went to other planets. To me that just struck a chord in my psyche. And Mars Pathfinder was really the crème de la crème for me in that sense, because not only could I actually physically build it, and actually see it, working with a great group of people, working a wide variety of problems, and solving them, but actually working with a team and actually launching it, making it work all the way there, and having it work on the surface of Mars... there's nothing like it. It's like... it's just the most profound experience you could have as an engineer. So, you know, you can go a few years after that working other projects, work on some studies, but when an opportunity actually comes, to try to do that again, actually make it, a mission to land on Mars, in your lifetime, you just don't turn it down, you've gotta take it. It's, it's... I've talked about being a Mars explorer is kinda like a drug. If you go away from it you get "withdrawal"... As soon as you start "taking it" again, you start feeling great again, and that's how we feel.

It's... very enticing and intoxicating for us on it. It's an enormous amount of work, and it really is hard on our families, so we have to work very, very hard to balance our work with our personal lives, and not forget that. But we view it as being a fairly short period of time where we can put enormous amount of energy in, and then we relax for a little while, and then within a year or so we are back pining to do this work again.

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