Chatting It Up With NASA

To coincide with the landing of one of two NASA Mars Exploratory Rovers Saturday, Spirit, #maestro filled with people, mainly from the /. crowd. As with any large chat room, conversations varied widely, covering both serious questions and insane topics.

I extracted some of the best conversation of the evening from my logs. I swapped the order of some messages to make it easier to follow, and I made two edits to make this log G-rated, but all punctuation and grammar is ripped straight from Saturday night.

I think I echo the thoughts of a number of people in thanking Jeff, Justin, Erik, and Sean for an enjoyable evening. I know I learned a lot. There was something of a thrill in getting to ask NASA staffers about the mission as it unfolded. Thanks, guys! I had a blast.

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JPL Chat Logs Coming Tuesday

Mars rover artistic rendition
An artist’s rendition of the two Mars Exploratory Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. The robots are designed to study the geological features of Mars and find evidence of water in the planet’s ancient past. (NASA)

I’m sifting through the logs I alluded to yesterday at a relatively speedy rate. So far, I’ve read through 6,500 lines (just under 2/3 of the transcript) and pulled 293 candidates. (These numbers are mainly here so I can keep my place :P.

I didn’t follow yesterday’s conversation live – it’s hard to pick out individual discussions in an IRC channel of over 150 people – but I’m picking up some fascinating tidbits about the mission.

I’m positively thrilled that JPL let this chat take place. I think a lot of people were genuinely impressed by the depth of the answers by the staffers – particularly Justin Wick, who, somehow, stayed patient the entire evening.

I’m truly fascinated by Spirit and Opportunity. They’re probably the most sophisticated robots Earth has ever sent into space. More on my observations tomorrow.

Spirit Alive at NASA

Spirit, the first of two Mars rovers designed by NASA, arrived safely on the planet shortly after its planned 8:35 PM PST scheduled landing time. Watching it on NASA TV was truly a chicken-skin event – the staff was simply elated that the mission has gone so well – a much different atmosphere than that of the Polar Lander (temporarily down) and, more recently, Beagle 2 crews. As I write this four hours later, the first images – a significant number of them – were revealed to the media at a NASA press briefing.

I was also fortunate to meet Jeff, Justin, Erik, and Sean, four NASA employees, in #maestro on FreeNode. Maestro, as reported on Slashdot, is a Java program very similar to the software JPL is using to control the rover.

It’s rare to have high-level officials in an IRC channel. I’m sure they would dispute the “high-ranking” title, but hey, they were in the lab while this moment in history was transpiring. As one participant remarked, these unofficial chats are really cool. I wouldn’t mind participating much more often in them.

I’m going to log #maestro throughout the night, and I hope to bring a condensed version of events to Waileia in a few days.