Last Friday (16 May), Mars Lab hosted an exciting video conference with Jen Shechet, Earth and planetary scientist on the Mars Curiosity Rover team. Live from CalTech, Jen spoke with students from Casula High School, PLC Armidale, Trundle Central School and Condobolin High School who also joined us via video conference as well as students from Mary MacKillop College who were here live in the Mars Lab studio.
Jen told us all about her work at NASA and her current role as ‘keeper of the plan’, in which she helps “build the plan fragments that get sent up to the rover”, characterises the terrains that the rover has driven over and “assesses the predictive capabilities of terrain we will drive over in the future, to best protect the rover wheels from future wheel damage.”
Since the Martian day (called a sol) is 37 minutes longer than a day here on Earth, Jen explained that she sometimes has to live on ‘Mars time’; which she did for the first three months after Curiosity rover first landed on Mars. Coming in to work 37 minutes later each day really throws off your normal ‘Earth’ schedule.
When the Big Bang Theory television show was mentioned, Jen admitted that CalTech is very much like that show … “just as nerdy”. When asked who she is most like on the show, Jen compared herself to Bernadette – but hopefully a lot less annoying!
It was an absolute pleasure speaking to Jen. We learned heaps, had a few laughs and found out how fun it is to be a planetary scientist … so inspiring.
Keep checking our website for the next special video conference event.