People across the country are adapting to a work from home lifestyle, including the team running NASA's Curiosity Mars rover.
Curiosity launched in November 2011 and landed on Mars in August 2012. It is part of the four rovers NASA has sent to reveal new discoveries on Mars since 1997. A fifth rover is set to launch this year.
On March 20, the rover's operations were planned while the entire team worked remotely. Two days later, the commands they had sent to Mars executed as expected, resulting in Curiosity drilling a rock sample at a location called "Edinburgh."
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The team began planning what working from home would like a few weeks before the mission.
They had to improvise technologically, along with making logistical adjustments to continue Curiosity's mission in space during a pandemic here on Earth.
They shifted to simple red-blue 3-D glasses that work well for planning drives and arm movements instead of the specialized googles at the lab, and they incorporated video conferencing and messaging apps to the mix.
Programming each sequence of actions for the rover may involve more than 20 people at a time developing and testing commands while simultaneously holding conversations with dozens more in the lab.
"We're usually all in one room, sharing screens, images and data," said Alicia Allbaugh, who leads the team. "People are talking in small groups and to each other from across the room," said Alicia Allbaugh, who leads the team.
The team at NASA said Curiosity is as scientifically productive as ever.
The transition has taken getting used to, but Carrie Bridge, science operations team chief, said the effort to keep Curiosity rolling is representative of the can-do spirit that attracted her to NASA.
"It's classic, textbook NASA," she said. "We're presented with a problem and we figure out how to make things work. Mars isn't standing still for us; we're still exploring."