Astrogeology Science Center

Sol 13 Update on Curiosity from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: All-Star Crew

19 August 2012
I served as SOWG Chair again today, planning Sol 13 activities for MSL.
The tactical planning team is getting better at getting everything done in
time to send commands to the rover, so we were able to fit more new
scientific observations into the plan today.  Fortunately, the science team
was led by an "all star" crew today, including Steve Squyres as Geology
Science Theme Lead.  Steve is the Principal Investigator of the science
payload on the Mars Exploration Rovers that landed on Mars in January
2004--first Spirit, then Opportunity.  I have been working for Steve as
science lead for the Microscopic imager, the close-up camera on the MER
instrument arms.  So we were joking today about the role reversal--as SOWG
Chair I lead the science team today.  The Opportunity mission continues to
be operated from the floor above the one where the MSL team has been
working, so I reminded him that upstairs he's still my boss.  It was great
to have such expert support today, and we put together a good plan.
Mid-way through the planning process we learned that the SAM instrument
checkout planned for Sol 14 would have to be spread over two Sols because
the successful completion of the first part of the checkout would have to
be confirmed by analyzing the results on Earth before the second part could
start.  To avoid having to spend an extra sol to get this done, we
scrambled to move the first part of the checkout into the Sol 13 plan.
I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that it was not easy.  We
handed the new plan off to the second shift, and hope that they will be
able to implement it.

So now I'm done with the set of four shifts as SOWG Chair, as scheduled.
It was exhilarating and I'm glad I had the opportunity to serve the project
in this role, but I'm also glad to have a break for a few days.  I'm hoping
to get more sleep tonight and to catch up on all the other work that has
been piling up over the past week.  I'm also looking forward to having more
time to analyze the data we have received from MSL and attend the Science
Discussion meeting, which always conflict with tactical planning meetings.