Now on 'Mars time,' NASA's Perseverance team has to shift their work hours 40 minutes later every day
- NASA's Perseverance rover just landed on Mars.
- Now about 350 of its engineers and scientists have to work on "
Marstime," shifting their hours 40 minutes later each day.
- Since this requires overnight shifts and causes
jetlag, NASAonly asks them to do it for three months.
NASA just landed a new rover on Mars, the culmination of a 300-million-mile journey that sent the robot into ancient lake bed.But the landing is just the beginning of the Perseverance rover's mission. It's set to explore Mars' Jezero Crater for the next two years. It will search for signs of ancient microbial life that could have gotten trapped in sediment from the river that flowed into the lake. Perseverance aims to collect about 40 samples of Martian rock and soil, which it will save so that a future NASA mission can bring them back to Earth.
The team usually starts work during the Martian afternoon, because that's when the rover's data dump reaches Earth. They work for 12 to 14 hours to prepare an upload to send back to the rover. The first shift in this cycle began at around 2 p.m., Trosper said, then it is shifting 40 minutes later every day. After 37 days - a full "cycle" - the shifts are back where they started."The reason we do Mars time is because it is the most efficient way to have the rover make progress on a day-to-day basis. And that's really important early in the mission to get it kind of unbuckled and ready to go," Trosper said.
The first tasks the team will do with the rover on this strange schedule involve checking all its systems,
Ahead of Perseverance's landing, she added, she finally bought an eye mask to help her sleep through sunlight hours.
"It took me five missions to figure this out," Trosper said. "So I'm ready. I have my earplugs, and we'll be on Mars time."The wonky schedule is especially complicated this year, since the pandemic means so many team members are working home. Taking 4 a.m. conference calls might be disruptive to sleeping family members or roommates.
So NASA has set up some socially distanced on-site places for team members to come in if they want to.
Trosper said "a couple dozen people" plan to take advantage of this option during the next three months. That way, she said, "they can not interfere with their family's life, which is not on Mars time."
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