Mars rover team coming off 'Mars time'

Nov. 6, 2012 at 8:47 PM
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PASADENA, Calif., Nov. 6 (UPI) -- Researchers operating NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, after three months of living on "Mars time," have switched to more regular hours, the space agency says.

The Curiosity team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., has been working on a schedule based on martian day, called sols, which are about 40 minutes longer than Earth days.

That's meant the start time of their work day has been moving a few hours later each week, often resulting in the team working overnight hours on Pacific Time.

Starting this week, most of the team's work will be fixed on a schedule of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. PST, a JPL release said Tuesday.

"People are glad to be going off Mars time," said Richard Cook, JPL project manager for NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project.

"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."

A simultaneous change this week begins more dispersed operations for the scientists on the rover team, with hundreds of scientists who have worked at JPL headquarters returning to their home institutions, where they will participate in operations through teleconferences and Web connections.

"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. "We have reached the point where we can continue working together well without needing to have people living away from their homes."

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