New Paper: Documenting Rover Science

In this latest paper, my colleagues and I outlined some challenges for mission documentation through our experiences on the 2016 CanMars analogue mission.

Documentation is the process by which you record major events and decision making in a mission. This is usually done so that future mission designers can learn from past missions. Although, most documentation actually gets used be people coming in to mission control after a shift or day off (since its a record of what happened while they were gone).

Analogue missions are when researchers practice operating rovers by using Earth instead of Mars or the Moon. It’s obviously a lot easier, safer, and cheaper, and is perfect for the real thing.A lot of graduates of analogue missions go on to work with rovers in space exploration.

In our case, we were working with a rover operating in the desert near Hanksville Utah, while our mission control was in London, Ontario.

MESR

Our little rover was called MESR (pronounced mee-zer) (Image: CSA, 2016)

Our paper is published in the September 2019 issue of Planetary and Space Science and can be found here.

In short we found a few things:

  • Up-front decisions have to be made about how detailed the in-room discussion will be recorded (there are trade-offs either way).
  • It’s practically impossible to capture all decision making on a mission (the ideal objective of documentation). All of the small conversations that go into a decisions occur in many undocumented places. The best thing to do is to make sure overall deciding factors are stated clearly in open deliberation and for recording.
  • Documentarians don’t have to be experts, in fact there may be value in non-experts recording the decision making process (along with experts). A mix may be best.
  • We suggest room design is not irrelevant to mission success, as mundane as it sounds. Room layout can affect documentation, at least in our case. A mission might as well consider this in mission control design.

Enjoy!

Feature image (CSA, 2016).

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