NASA Deep Space Operations, MSL Mission Operations Flight Control after Mars Science Laboratory lands "Curiosity" wheels on Mars and the Deep Space Network Operations Center, Pasadena, California, with transparent text, 2012.08.05 23:15
Four rooms and a hall
Deep Space Operations facility at Jet Propulsion Laboratory integrates several functions during critical mission phases.
Some are vigilant around the clock.
Some are workaday.
Some, like the Curiosity Mars Science Laboratory rover team, are accommodated for critical mission periods.
Our view is from the fourth room - a glass enclosed public viewing area above the others.
Below is the Deep Space Operations stations and consoles support the workaday teams which monitor all active missions and data collection. Soft blue LEDs illuminate each workstation. Above are three projection screens which can display networked pages relevant to the task at hand - in this case the transition from spacecraft to rover of the Mars Science Laboratory "Curiosity", a high-risk stream of events.
To the right is a Mission Control Center, which spends much time unoccupied. Tonight however Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) team have come to sweat and fret, and eat the traditional peanuts. They monitor and direct the spacecraft as the tasks unfold autonomously, keeping watch that all is nominally within range (keeping an eye pealed for anomalies.) Tomorrow this room will once again be empty, save for the few workers swapping functions in preparation for the next Mission Control team. Some of the team returns to home mission control for day-to-day planning and operations, some of tonight's team bid farewell and are re-assigned to other teams where their spaceflight expertise can be useful, while others now join the ground operations aspect of Curiosity.
Just beyond the glass beneath the projection screens is the the key to ALL current missions, the Deep Space Network Operations Center. Here is the connections to and from points far and wide. It is the nexus, the hub between all currently operating missions with crews sending commands and receiving data, through here, and out to collections of Deep Space Network Antennas and arrays which are many, and include the famous ones in Madrid, Spain; Canberra, Australia; and Goldstone in the Mojave Desert of California. The buck stops here for ensuring scientists remain connected to their experiments. A redundant and robust network which includes transmission media such as microwave, coaxial, twisted-pair and fiber-optic carrying an astronomic variety of analog and digital protocol information must remain under constant vigil to prevent disruption.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research. It's mission statement "To pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research." implies a directive to make it's finding available to all U.S. citizens. Sometimes that is a televised event, and the data screens on either side of the telemetry data screen are displaying the High-Definition video streams of themselves, perhaps a reminder to keep offensive gestures and t-shirt logos out of the public eye. This view is from the camera mounted on the right side of the public viewing platform, and a recursive image is seen on the right data screen. If you could view with infinite pixel density, you would be about here in the worm-hole, giving new meaning to waving at the folks back home.