Millions of people around the world are currently working from home in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. Many of them have had to learn new ways of performing their jobs while attempting to turn living spaces into work-friendly environments.
While such change can be difficult for any worker, it can be even harder for a scientist or engineer who cannot work in their usual laboratory setting.
The American space agency NASA employs a large number of these workers. Almost all of them have been working from home for the past month.
Recently, the NASA team that controls the Curiosity explorer on
Mars showed that they were able to perform their daily duties
completely from their homes. NASA recently reported on the team’s
Usually, the Curiosity control team operates from NASA’s Jet
Propulsion Laboratory, or JPL, in Pasadena, California. But for the
first time ever, all members of the team have had to do all of
Alicia Allbaugh leads the Mars Exploration Program. She said the
current situation is very different from the environment her team
is used to working in at JPL headquarters. "We're usually all in
one room, sharing
The Curiosity team has attempted to recreate the same cooperative work atmosphere by using video conferencing technology and messaging apps. Effective communication is very important. So, team leaders have added extra planning time each day to help make sure all team members are connected.
Carrie Bridge is the chief of science operations for the team. She said one of her main jobs is to be a bridge between the scientists and engineers to make sure they understand each other’s work.
At JPL headquarters, Bridge usually goes around to meet directly with groups working in a “situation room” where Curiosity's data and images are examined and commands are shared. Now, she calls into as many as four separate videoconferences at once.
Bridge said she is also now looking at about 15 different
The remote Curiosity team was lacking some technology and tools they usually use to perform their jobs. Some employees were able to pick up some computer and communications equipment. But other equipment could not be sent home.
For example, the team uses special goggles, or eyewear, to
The goggles require high-powered computer systems to operate
that team members could not set up at home. So, they were told to
After a lot of planning and test runs, the remote team was
excited to announce that the explorer had received its commands
from Earth and performed as expected. The first result: Curiosity
successfully completed a
While the effort required a lot of creative thinking
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from NASA. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
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