Monday, October 12. 2009
Hello. My name is Shane Thompson and I am a lunatic. I am the Operations Lead for the LROC Operations Team at ASU for the Science Operations Center (SOC). I am an ASU alumni from the geology department and have been involved with lunar research for the last two years and Mars research for the last nine.
Daily operations for LROC at the SOC are carried out by four of eight Ops Team members who handle commanding the instrument and processing the downlinked data. There are two sides to operations: uplink and downlink. The uplink side creates the sequence of image commands in time order and validates them for optimal imaging as well as error checking with other spacecraft operations, and then sends the commands to Goddard Space Flight Center for uplink to the spacecraft. The downlink side handles acquired data products (both image and telemetry data) that are received, validated, processed, catalogued, and prepared for release. As an Ops Team member, I cycle through each of the four positions (2 uplink, 2 downlink). I get the experience of targeting the Moon for two weeks, which amounts to about 2200 images. It's a great feeling identifying targets and then seeing the images on the screen a day or two later! The next two weeks I am on the downlink shifts where I manage the processing of products and troubleshoot any problematic images. Then the cycle repeats. The benefit of rotating positions is being involved in all of the instrument's operational aspects. I am gaining great experience with not only spacecraft and instrument operations, but also computer skills from hardware configurations to shell scripting to database queries.
LROC is a high volume data collector. About 300-350 NAC images and 200-250 WAC images are acquired every day! That amounts to about 40-45 gigabytes per day!! Managing the processing of all these observations depends heavily on automation via scripts and a dependable database. During the commissioning phase (which just ended on September 15), there were many places within our procedures that had to be fine tuned. Now that the primary phase of the mission is upon us, we are ready to handle the fire-hose of data!