Monday, October 6, 2008

Reflections for today

I was reading my blog from this morning and cringed at all those typing errors.. oh well. It was 6am??? I had already been up for 4hrs.
After leaving the Situation Room this morning, we headed back to the hotel for a nap. There was a lunch scheduled at noon followed by a meeting with USRA, University of Space Researchers Association leaders. They are one of the organizations that...lets say.. supports, trains and provides us Fellows with this NASA opportunity.

Getting back to the hotel...aahhhh. In bed, curtains closed, about to fall asleep... begins. Saws, hammers, clickin' and clackin' in the hallway... the floor below us was being renovated. Fortunately for me, if Im tired, I sleep. Its that simple. I had some crazy dreams but I did get some sleep.

After lunch we went back to JAPL to talk about the Educator Fellows Program. They wanted to discuss how we are using Web 2.0 tools. Are our schools supporting us? How are the trainings going? What changes can be made to the program? Good stuff was discussed and tossed around. Flow charts were drawn, scribble through and redrawn.

Next meeting was a 4pm. We were invited to an teleconference orientation meeting. I was particularly excited because I had listened in on the Phoenix Mars teleconferences on my Ipod. I subscribe to many podcasts and listen while I work out. JPL and ASU would present collaboratively. Reporters would post questions and scienctists would explain in minute detail problems, possible solutions and future plans. Now I was at a teleconference in person. I was able to ask the questions! I could see the new images as they shared and discussed among colleagues. It was so very cool!
Here is a quick synops of the meeting.
  • The flyby was a success. They were off of trajectory by 2km! That is simply amazing!
  • Space craft followed the trajectory… 3 billion miles around the sun.
  • Signal strength varied at the correct time during the sequence.
  • Images will not be available till tomorrow 2am. ( I think we are going back to see this)
  • Data download will begin at 2am and continue through the morning.
  • Beginning tomorrow and through out next week will be the give and take of scientific discussions.
  • Teams meet in the morning to discuss the data and present their information in the afternoon.
  • Soar sailing worked great.

After the update... they pulled out an image that was taken with the wide angle camera. It could have been a picture of the moon and I wouldn't have known the difference. These guys knew the Mercury terrain so well that they could differentiate between craters and scarps and ridges and they saw a crater with a mote??? I didn't know what that meant but they seemed pretty excited about it.

Well its 11pm and I'm tired. My roomate is brushing her teeth which is a good cue that it is time to shut down and go to bed.

Its time!

Wow... I'm the MESSENGER situation room looking into the MOC (mission operations room)! It is 4am and about 5 minutes from MESSENGERs closest approach to Mercury.

There are about 40 folks sitting around watching the animations being produced from While I'm typing, I'm listening to Jim the mission design lead engineer explain this animation to another gentleman in the room. Jim developed this animation program which uses images from the Mariner 10 expedition from 30 years ago and the fly by in January to show what the MESSENGER spacecraft is seeing and its location in relation to the planet. These images are now being updated by the MESSENGER spacecraft during the flyby with a resolution of 500m/pixel using the narrow angle camera and 4km/pixel with the wide angle camera. The approach for the spacecraft is, "4 degrees to the north of the equator,"," due to gravity it will be going.. " It is now 51 sec from closest approach. They both get up and go into the MOC.

There are a lot of side conversations in the room. I'm listening to Louise, the instrument scientist explain her role in the mission. She makes sure the Mercury Dual Imaging System is doing what is supposed to do. She is telling us about the images, how they are downloaded, compressed, and overlaid. In some of the images prior to the flyby, Saturn could be seen in the distance. Saturn is so small and so far away that they couldn't get any good images from the MESSENGER cameras on the spacecraft.

The conversation in the SRoom has quieted. Everyone is moving to the MOC. Well, everyone but us. We can't enter the MOC. We can only watch through a window and listen through a one way intercom system. The quiet in the room is interrupted, "for those observing the animation, the end for this animation is 08:50 spacecraft time." They are now starting the daytime surface scan. They are passing over to the light side of the planet using the wide angle camera. On the tv screen on the wall.

Eric Finnegan is the mission systems engineer. Solar sailing is being used to navigate the spacecraft. This source of energy to maneuver the spacecraft wasn't the planned propulsion but a new addition to the mission. "The solar panels are being used as a sail....this wasn't planned at take off. We always planned to use gas but have been able to use solar pressure to maneuver the spacecraft. It has taken two years to learn how the spacecraft will respond to the solar pressure. Each part of the spacecraft will reflect light differently so the the spacecraft will respond differently. We have to keep flipping the spacecraft to keep the sunshade facing the sun. Solar pressure is .... Learning about using solar sailing. Solar Pressure is a function of r squared.. 11 times greater on MESSENGER than on the Earth."

Over the intercom, "The next activity is the high resolution mosaic strip."

Sean is the geologist... So Mercury has a core... but it is very small relative to the Earth's core. Sean said that volcanism is a result of the planet releasing heat not because of tectonic plates. Earth is the only planet that has tectonic plates.....

The velocity of the spacecraft will be 148,000miles/hour on October 15th. This is the second fastest ever a space craft has ever gone. This speed is relative to the sun. We are now about 65 % closer to the sun than the earth.

Ok that is about it for now. It is now 6:36 am. We are powering down and packing up to go back to the hotel for a nap. We meet back for another meeting after lunch