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Curiosity’s mission team continues to control the rover from home

WASHINGTON, (BM) – In connection with the pandemic of coronavirus disease, employees of many enterprises and companies in all countries began to switch to remote work from home to protect themselves from Covid-19 and thereby reduce the burden on doctors and medical facilities. Similar measures affected employees of NASA, as well as its research centers.

Read more: Russian scientist: ‘Humanity will soon begin to colonize Mars’

So, the team of the Martian Science Laboratory faced the same problems as other people in the distance: the employees of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Kaltekh play with pets, share the workplace with loved ones, but they also control the Curiosity rover.

As explained on the JPL website, the laboratory began to switch to remote work a couple of weeks ago. Then they distributed among themselves monitors, headsets and other equipment.

However, not everything that mission members are accustomed to doing in the “office” can be taken home: most often they work with three-dimensional images sent Curiosity directly from the Red Planet, and for this we need special glasses to help you examine all the details of the pictures and understand where to direct the rover and what commands to give it. Such glasses, in turn, require high-performance computers with powerful video cards, so that rover operators have the opportunity to view three-dimensional images on their home laptops, they switched to using anaglyph 3D glasses.

In addition, Curiosity team members work with hundreds of scientists from research institutes around the world – and although this is usually done remotely, the JPL staff themselves are not used to working separately from each other.

Read more: NASA announces a giant radio telescope project in a crater on the moon

Experts explain that about 20 people can participate in programming any sequence of Curiosity actions, who together calculate and test teams, while maintaining communication with dozens of colleagues in other places.

“Usually we all sit in the same room, share images and data. People talk in small groups and with each other throughout the room,” says Alicia Albo, group leader.

After switching to a remote site, members of the Curiosity team have to do their usual work, conducting several video conferences simultaneously and chatting in instant messengers – all these manipulations now take an average of one to two hours more.

In addition, such a schedule limits the number of teams that are sent to the rover. The head of the research group, Carrie Bridge, for example, operates 15 chats to make sure that the communication of scientists and engineers is maintained and that the work is carried out according to plan.

One of the results of the udalenka was that on March 20 (when none of the mission members were already personally present in the laboratory) Curiosity sent teams, thanks to which the rover managed to drill the rock on the drilling site called Edinbur, collect samples and send a report to JPL – how and it was planned.

According to Bridge, everyone gradually got used to the new regime – and efforts to maintain the functioning of the rover even in a pandemic reflect the spirit of the space agency. “It’s a NASA classic,” she says. “We had a problem, and we are figuring out how to make everything work. Mars does not stand still, and we are still exploring it.”

Read more: A scientist appreciated the prospect of using lunar resources

In recent days, the United States came out on top in the number of coronavirus victims: over 26 thousand people have already died there, a total of 616 thousand cases of infection have been recorded. The second country most affected by Covid-19 was Spain (177 thousand cases). In Italy, 162 488 patients were recorded.

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