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From Prime to Extended Mission: Evolution of the MER Tactical Uplink ProcessTo support a 90-day surface mission for two robotic rovers, the Mars Exploration Rover mission designed and implemented an intensive tactical operations process, enabling daily commanding of each rover. Using a combination of new processes, custom software tools, a Mars-time staffing schedule, and seven-day-a-week operations, the MER team was able to compress the traditional weeks-long command-turnaround for a deep space robotic mission to about 18 hours. However, the pace of this process was never intended to be continued indefinitely. Even before the end of the three-month prime mission, MER operations began evolving towards greater sustainability. A combination of continued software tool development, increasing team experience, and availability of reusable sequences first reduced the mean process duration to approximately 11 hours. The number of workshifts required to perform the process dropped, and the team returned to a modified 'Earth-time' schedule. Additional process and tool adaptation eventually provided the option of planning multiple Martian days of activity within a single workshift, making 5-day-a-week operations possible. The vast majority of the science team returned to their home institutions, continuing to participate fully in the tactical operations process remotely. MER has continued to operate for over two Earth-years as many of its key personnel have moved on to other projects, the operations team and budget have shrunk, and the rovers have begun to exhibit symptoms of aging.
Document ID
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
External Source(s)
Mishkin, Andrew H. (Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Laubach, Sharon (Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Tech. Pasadena, CA, United States)
Date Acquired
August 23, 2013
Publication Date
June 19, 2006
Subject Category
Space Sciences (General)
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
AIAA SpaceOps Conference(Rome)
Distribution Limits
mission operations
planetary surface operations
Mars Exploration Rover (MER)