Palo Alto, California

Talking of Mars rovers deja vu all over again

September 13, 2017

In 2004, after the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) landed I took to writing down each day after getting back to the apartment in Pasadena about that day.  My goal was just to share and educate about what it was like and what was happening.  It was to share the dream.

 

The problem was that we had two rovers on the surface and they were twelve hours apart.  Each of us doing operations was assigned for that shift to one or the other of the rovers, either to Spirit (the first to land) or to Opportunity.We previously had lectures about sleep deprivation, and how flight missions lost people who drove home too sleepy and how it was essential we and everyone on our teams got plenty of sleep.  But...

 

First, it was impossible for anyone who had worked as long and as hard on these missions to just ignore the other rover even for just a day.  Among other reasons it was just too damn exciting.  So we would work our 12 hours on our standard shift and then stay around and watch the other rover for a few hours.  At least long enough to figure out what was happening.  

Second, we were living on Mars time!  Mars day is 40 minutes longer than Earth's day so if you shift to Mars time you are getting up later by 40 minutes each day.  A silly (one might say testosterone driven:)) plan for most of us.  It probably was useful for half a dozen people but not the hundred that tried.  And, yes, it was true we got slightly more done that way.  However, it killed us because Mars time just killed your sleep pattern and frankly we were always tired even if we only worked our one 12 shit.  

 

So after a very long work cycle I would drive from JPL back to Pasadena.  What I kept finding was that I would fall asleep at stop lights along the way.  That was unfortunate but it wasn't the trigger that finally stopped me from my MER blog (although we didn't call it that then).  What stopped me was the night I got back to the apartment and I had a choice.  Write my blog on MER and get 2 hours sleep or else skip writing it and get 3 hours.  I thought about it a bit and then went to sleep.  That was my last blog until today.

 

So, this first blog for Ceres Robotics has a history it is slipping into.  Let me know what you think and you can give me suggestions about topics.  You can email at: blog@ceresrobotics.com.

 

Thanks, and pleasant dreams!

 

 

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