Coronavirus Lockdown: NASA Curiosity Team Continues Exploring Mars From Home


Coronavirus lockdown has resulted in a large number of the workforce handling business from home to avoid coming in contact with the deadly virus. The work from home protocol extends to various organizations, including NASA. As it turns out, the NASA Curiosity rover is now being operated by a team working from home.

Coronavirus Lockdown: NASA Team Operates Curiosity Rover From Home

NASA Curiosity Rover Monitored From Home

The NASA Curiosity team has adapted to the unprecedented situation to continue managing the multi-million dollar rover on another planet. "It was the first time the rover's operations were planned while the team was completely remote," NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory blog post noted.

The Curiosity rover has continued exploring Mars despite the ongoing pandemic back on Earth. Usually, the Curiosity team involves hundreds of people bustling about its findings. The team has now managed to continue the operations without any of them meeting in person.

"We're usually all in one room, sharing screens, images, and data," said team lead Alicia Allbaugh. Now, the team is not only scattered across different rooms but are put on different schedules and computing setups. Allbaugh notes that she's monitoring around 15 chat channels at all times and juggling more than she normally would.

Adapting To Complexities

It should be noted that hardware isn't the only part of the equation, notes NASA. "Typically, team members at JPL work with hundreds of scientists at research institutions around the world to decide where to drive Curiosity and how to gather its science. Working at a remove from those scientists is not new. But working apart from other people who are usually based at JPL is," explains the post.

Allbaugh further notes that there are several video calls all at once. Some processes that were previously accomplished on high-performance workstations are now being done on laptops and web services. But while the added complexity makes the planning process less efficient, the results are still rolling in.


It was found that the Curiosity rover drove up to a rock, drilled a sample, and sent confirmation back to the team on Earth, something that was done regularly and the work continues. "Mars isn't standing still for us; we're still exploring," said Allbaugh.

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