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Distributed operations for the Mars Exploration Rover Mission with the science activity planner

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5 Author(s)
J. V. Wick ; Jet Propulsion Lab., Pasadena, CA, USA ; J. L. Callas ; J. S. Norris ; M. W. Powell
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The unprecedented endurance of both the Spirit and Opportunity rovers during the Mars Exploration Rover Mission (MER) brought with it many unexpected challenges. Scientists, many of whom had planned on staying at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, CA for 90 days, were eager to return to their families and home institutions. This created a need for the rapid conversion of a mission-planning tool, the science activity planner (SAP), from a centralized application usable only within JPL, to a distributed system capable of allowing scientists to continue collaborating from locations around the world. Rather than changing SAP itself, the rapid conversion was facilitated by a collection of software utilities that emulated the internal JPL software environment and provided efficient, automated information propagation. During this process many lessons were learned about scientific collaboration in a concurrent environment, use of existing server-client software in rapid systems development, and the effect of system latency on end-user usage patterns. Switching to a distributed mode of operations also saved a considerable amount of money, and increased the number of specialists able to actively contribute to mission research. Long-term planetary exploration missions of the future will build upon the distributed operations model used by MER

Published in:

2005 IEEE Aerospace Conference

Date of Conference:

5-12 March 2005