With most of NASA's employees working from home due to the coronavirus lockdowns, team members of Curiosity revealed how they are able to remotely control the rover on Mars. They noted that piloting the rover from home has its own sets of challenges.

For the past couple of weeks, employees of NASA have been working remotely from their homes due to the lockdowns and the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the US Despite the current working conditions, NASA's employees make sure that they can still complete their tasks for the agency.

Curiosity Rover's Recent Activity On Mars

Curiosity Rover team
Members of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover mission team photographed themselves on March 20, 2020, the first day the entire mission team worked remotely from home. NASA/JPL-Caltech

These include members of NASA's Curiosity team. On March 22, the rover executed another drilling procedure on a location on Mars known as Edinburgh. The goal of the procedure was to collect rock samples from Mars' subsurface.

Although Curiosity operated normally as it drilled away on Mars, the team behind it was actually working in a totally different setting. Instead of controlling the rover inside NASA specialized facilities, members of the team were working from the comfort of their own homes.

Piloting Curiosity From Home

Curiosity Rover
Selfie on May 12, 2019. NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

One of the main challenges that the team members encountered when they started working remotely was the lack of access to NASA's powerful computers. They used these computers to view 3D images of Mars in order to spot every contour and feature of the landscape. This allows them to safely and effectively drive Curiosity across the harsh Martian surface.

As a solution to this issue, Curiosity's team members switched to using simple red-blue 3D glasses to plan out the rover's path. Although the glasses are not as accurate and immersive as the ones at NASA's facility, they can still be used for planning Curiosity's movements.

Meeting With Other Team Members

Aside from the use of special equipment, the team members have also switched to video conferencing and online messaging for their meetings regarding Curiosity's mission. According to Alicia Allbaugh, the leader of the team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, staying constantly in touch even when working from home ensures that vital information is shared with each member.

"We're usually all in one room, sharing screens, images and data. People are talking in small groups and to each other from across the room," she shared in a statement.