The ongoing Covid-19 outbreak has forced millions of people to shelter in place and work from home. The same holds true for the team monitoring and controlling NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover as the space agency has sent many of its employees home to help combat the spread of the virus.
NASA saw the move coming in advance and planned for it accordingly. Before the first remote mission on March 20, the Curiosity team was given headsets, monitors and other equipment to more effectively work from home. They even went through several tests and a full practice run before their first live mission which consisted of drilling a rock sample at a site called Edinburgh.
Team lead Alicia Allbaugh said everyone involved in a programming sequence for the rover is normally in one room, sharing screens, images and data. “People are talking in small groups and to each other from across the room,” she added.
Now, they are doing it all remotely through the use of video conferencing and messaging apps. It takes a bit longer than usual which can limit the number of commands sent to the rover each day but for the most part, Curiosity remains a scientifically productive as ever, NASA said.
Science operations team chief Carrie Bridge said it is textbook NASA. “We’re presented with a problem and we figure out how to make things work.”