NASA Curiosity Team Changes From Mars To Earth Time
November 7, 2012

NASA Curiosity Team Changes From Mars To Earth Time

[WATCH VIDEO: Living On Mars Time]

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

It has been three months since NASA´s Mars Curiosity rover landed on the Red Planet. During this time, the team operating the mission has been operating on “Mars time.” Because an average day (called a Sol on Mars) is about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day, the team´s daily start times had been moving a few hours later each week, resulting in many overnight shifts.

Due to the continually changing schedules, trying to conform to the Martian day, the mission team decided that it would be more productive to switch back to Earth time, with most teams staying within the bounds of an 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. work day (PST).

Richard Cook, project manager for NASA´s Mars Science Laboratory Project at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, explained the switch was possible due to compression of the daily planning process.

“The team has been successful in getting the duration of the daily planning process from more than 16 hours, during the initial weeks after landing, down to 12 hours. We've been getting better at operations,” he said in a news release.

Other members of the Curiosity team, which include about 200 JPL engineers and some 400 scientists from various institutions, will begin keeping more dispersed operations. Another 200 non-JPL scientists will also continue their participation from their home institutions throughout North America and Europe. The Curiosity team has also been busy preparing teleconferences and web connections to keep in touch with all participating parties.

“The phase that we're completing, working together at one location, has been incredibly valuable for team-building and getting to know each other under the pressure of daily timelines,” said Mars Science Laboratory Deputy Project Scientist Joy Crisp, of JPL. “We have reached the point where we can continue working together well without needing to have people living away from their homes.”

Changing time scheduling has not affected the team´s current project, which has focused on getting the first sample of solid Martian material into Curiosity´s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument.

Just a few days ago (Nov. 5), the rover´s Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instrument dumped out the second sample it had finished analyzing. That sample, which was taken from the fourth scoop, was collected from the “Rocknest” site. The team is planning for a fifth scoop at Rocknest in the coming days.

JPL, a division of the CALTECH, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built Curiosity.