Nasa engineers are controlling a rover on Mars from their homes

Even the mighty space agency Nasa has embraced the current lockdown restrictions that have been put in place worldwide to deal with coronavirus.

Amazingly, workers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have been able to shift gears and work from home. That includes piloting the Curiosity space rover that’s currently 140 million miles away on Mars.

‘On March 20, 2020, nobody on the team was present at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, where the mission is based,’ the space agency wrote.

‘It was the first time the rover’s operations were planned while the team was completely remote. Two days later, the commands they had sent to Mars executed as expected, resulting in Curiosity drilling a rock sample at a location called “Edinburgh”‘.

Things get decidedly more low-tech when it comes to studying 3D images sent back from Mars.

Usually, the scientists would strap on special goggles attached to advanced graphics cards inside high-performance computers at JPL to check the images. At home, they’re relying on those old red-and-blue cardboard glasses from the 1950s that made things look 3D.

‘Although not as immersive or comfortable as the goggles, they work just as well for planning drives and arm movements,’ Nasa wrote.

Programming the rover may involve 20 or so people to co-ordinate something like moving the arm or recording data.

To make sure everyone is being heard and understands one another, science operations team chief Carrie Bridge proactively talks to the scientists and engineers to close any communication gaps.

‘I probably monitor about 15 chat channels at all times,’ she said. ‘You’re juggling more than you normally would.’

Typically, Bridge would make her rounds to several groups working in a kind of situation room where Curiosity’s data and images are viewed and commands are generated. Now she calls into as many as four separate videoconferences at the same time to check in.

‘I still do my normal routine, but virtually,’ she said.

Source: Read Full Article