Nagi Cox Works on Mars Time: January 20th, 2014

Show notes for episode 182, January 20, 2014
Hosts: Rob B., Jesse, Pat
Special Guest: Dr. Nagin Cox
Title: Nagi Cox Works on Mars Time

‘One is tempted to leave one’s mark,’ and Dr. Nagin Cox certainly did on this show. We invited the systems engineer from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to join us and chat about her past work on Galileo, Kepler, Cassini, Spirit & Opportunity (10 year anniversary on Mars), and her current work on the Curiosity rover. In other news, 35 years ago the Soviets donated 50 kg of Uranium to Canada and Rosetta woke up from its hibernation. This is your universe, on York Universe. Show notes and podcast below.

This week in space/astronomy history:
1. Jan 25, 1736 – Lagrange born.
2. Jan 24, 1978 – Soviets donate 50 kg of Uranium to Canada during Kosmos 954 reentry accident.
3. Jan 22, 2003 – Pioneer 10 sends last signal to Earth.
4. Jan 25, 2004 – Oppy lands on Mars; the second of the Mars Exploration Rovers.

Guest Interview: Nagin Cox
Biography: Ms. Cox is a systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She was the deputy chief of the JPL team that developed the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity. Further, her experience includes working in operations of Galileo, Kepler, and Cassini. Currently she is member of the Mars Science Laboratory operations team for Curiosity.

Questions we asked Ms. Cox:
1. Press/educators/communicators have been sharing their excitement about the longevity of MER for years, but what does someone who is directly involved feel like?
2. How were you directly involved in these missions? What does a systems engineer do? (i.e. Did you write lines of code? Receive data? Did you physically touch any part of the rovers? etc?)
3. How is the Curiosity rover different from Spirit and Opportunity
4. What lessons from MER went directly into MSL?
5. What are you looking forward to in future Mars exploration [or other missions]?  What is the burning question you want an answer to?
6. What do you think of the ‘new’ rock in front of Oppy? The Story
7. We know the Curiosity’s wheels spell out JPL in morse code, but why?

Notable quotes from the interview:

“NASA then asked ‘can you build two’ ” –Ms. Cox referring to Spirit & Opportunity during the planning phase

“I live by Mars time”

“one is tempted to leave one’s mark” –Ms. Cox in explaining why Curiosity’s wheels spell out ‘JPL’ in Morse code

1. Rosetta wakes up! ESA’s comet-chasing mission Rosetta woke up today at 18:18 GMT (13:18 EST) from a deep-space hibernation to reach the destination it has been cruising towards for a decade! The mission was originally en route to Comet 46 P/Wirtanen. But due to a delay in launch a new target was set: Comet 67 P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Rosetta will be the first mission ever to orbit a comet’s nucleus and to land a probe on its surface (Suggested Reading: ESA The story so far, ESA Press Release, ESA Rosetta Homepage).
2. Gemini’s new Planet Imager sees first light. Installed on Gemini South, the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) has imaged its first planet: Beta Pictoris b. (Suggested Reading: Gemini Press Release, GPI Photo Album, wiki article on Beta Pictoris b,).
3. First planet found around solar twin in star cluster M67. (Suggested Reading: ESO Press Release,)

Thanks for listening!
-YorkUniverse Team
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