Curiosity team switched to remote work – but continues to control the rover even from home

The pandemic did not stop the study of Mars – NASA employees told how they solve new problems for themselves “remote”.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, many had to switch to remote work. These measures also affected the NASA Curiosity division: the project team also has to look for a workplace in the house, make video calls and learn to share work and leisure. But there is one difference – engineers control the rover, which is located millions of kilometers from Earth.

Dozens of engineers on the “remote” adapt to the situation and face new challenges – not only on the surface of Mars. The Curiosity team shared details on the NASA website.

Engineers began to prepare for new realities in early March – they began to prepare jobs at home, distributing the necessary equipment to employees. But it was not possible to pick up all the devices from the laboratory: for example, special 3D glasses for controlling the rover had to be replaced with the usual red-blue ones.

Usually programming each Curiosity sequence is the work of up to 20 people who develop and test teams in one place, and at the same time interact with dozens of colleagues. Now they are doing the same thing, but simultaneously in several video conferencing and chat rooms.

On average, Curiosity engineers now spend 1-2 hours more on each operation than before a pandemic, says research team leader Carry Bridge. Usually she went around the laboratory and checked the work of each mini-team: did anyone have any problems? Do the actions of engineers coincide with the calculations of scientists? Now the same thing is happening online.

I constantly monitor 15 chat channels. I am in four video conferences at the same time. I do what I did before, but virtually. But you have to focus on more things than usual.

Carrie Bridge

Curiosity Research Team Leader

But, according to Bridge, the realities of the pandemic will not break the spirit of NASA – the space agency thrives on the culture “You can handle anything.” “This is a NASA classic. We are having a problem, and we are trying to figure out how to make everything work. The study of Mars does not stand still – we are still exploring it. ”

On March 20, there was no one at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. But the engineers gathered remotely to complete part of the mission on Mars. Curiosity drove to a place called Edinburgh, drilled a mountain, took a rock sample and sent a report to Earth. Everything went as planned before the pandemic.




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