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← Living on Two Planets: Mars Time | Nagin Cox | TEDxBeaconStreet

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Showing Revision 3 created 02/04/2017 by Krystian Aparta.

  1. So many of you have probably seen
    the movie "The Martian."
  2. But for those of you who did not,
    it's a movie about an astronaut
  3. who is stranded on Mars,
    and his efforts to stay alive
  4. until the Earth can send a rescue mission
    to bring him back to Earth.
  5. Gladly, they do re-establish communication
  6. with the character,
    astronaut Watney, at some point
  7. so that he's not as alone
    on Mars until he can be rescued.
  8. So while you're watching the movie,
    or even if you haven't,
  9. when you think about Mars,
  10. you're probably thinking about
    how far away it is and how distant.
  11. And, what might not
    have occurred to you is,

  12. what are the logistics really like
    of working on another planet --
  13. of living on two planets
  14. when there are people on the Earth
    and there are rovers or people on Mars?
  15. So think about when you have friends,
    families and co-workers
  16. in California, on the West Coast
    or in other parts of the world.
  17. When you're trying
    to communicate with them,
  18. one of the things
    you probably first think about is:
  19. wait, what time is it in California?
  20. Will I wake them up? Is it OK to call?
  21. So even if you're interacting
    with colleagues who are in Europe,
  22. you're immediately thinking about:
  23. What does it take to coordinate
    communication when people are far away?
  24. So we don't have people on Mars
    right now, but we do have rovers.
  25. And actually right now, on Curiosity,
    it is 6:10 in the morning.
  26. So, 6:10 in the morning on Mars.
  27. We have four rovers on Mars.
  28. The United States has put four rovers
    on Mars since the mid-1990s,
  29. and I have been privileged enough
    to work on three of them.
  30. So, I am a spacecraft engineer,
    a spacecraft operations engineer,
  31. at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
    in Los Angeles, California.
  32. And these rovers
    are our robotic emissaries.
  33. So, they are our eyes and our ears,
    and they see the planet for us
  34. until we can send people.
  35. So we learn how to operate
    on other planets through these rovers.
  36. So before we send people, we send robots.
  37. So the reason there's a time difference
    on Mars right now,
  38. from the time that we're at
  39. is because the Martian day
    is longer than the Earth day.
  40. Our Earth day is 24 hours,
  41. because that's how long it takes
    the Earth to rotate,
  42. how long it takes to go around once.
  43. So our day is 24 hours.
  44. It takes Mars 24 hours and approximately
    40 minutes to rotate once.
  45. So that means that the Martian day
    is 40 minutes longer than the Earth day.
  46. So teams of people who are operating
    the rovers on Mars, like this one --
  47. this is one of our teams that I'm part of,
  48. I usually sit at this table over here --
  49. what we are doing is we are living
    on Earth, but working on Mars.
  50. So we have to think as if we are actually
    on Mars with the rover.
  51. Our job, the job of this team,
    of which I'm a part of,
  52. is to send commands to the rover
    to tell it what to do the next day.
  53. To tell it to drive or drill
    or tell her whatever she's supposed to do.
  54. So while she's sleeping --
    and the rover does sleep at night
  55. because she needs
    to recharge her batteries
  56. and she needs to weather
    the cold Martian night.
  57. And so she sleeps.
  58. So while she sleeps, we work
    on her program for the next day.
  59. So I work the Martian night shift.
  60. (Laughter)
  61. So in order to come to work on the Earth
    at the same time every day on Mars --
  62. like, let's say I need to be
    at work at 5:00 p.m.,
  63. this team needs to be at work
    at 5:00 p.m. Mars time every day,
  64. then we have to come to work
    on the Earth 40 minutes later every day,
  65. in order to stay in sync with Mars.
  66. That's like moving a time zone every day.
  67. So one day you come in at 8:00,
    the next day 40 minutes later at 8:40,
  68. the next day 40 minutes later at 9:20,
  69. the next day at 10:00.
  70. So you keep moving 40 minutes every day,
  71. until soon you're coming to work
    in the middle of the night --
  72. the middle of the Earth night.
  73. Right? So you can imagine
    how confusing that is.
  74. Hence, the Mars watch.
  75. (Laughter)
  76. (Applause)
  77. I think they're going to zoom in.
  78. (Applause)
  79. This weights in this watch
    have been mechanically adjusted
  80. so that it runs more slowly.
  81. Right? And we didn't start out --
  82. I got this watch in 2004
  83. when Spirit and Opportunity,
    the rovers back then.
  84. We didn't start out thinking
  85. that we were going to need Mars watches.
  86. Right? We thought, OK,
    we'll just have the time on our computers
  87. and on the mission control screens,
    and that would be enough.
  88. Yeah, not so much.
  89. Because we weren't just
    working on Mars time,
  90. we were actually living on Mars time.
  91. And we got just instantaneously confused
    about what time it was.
  92. So you really needed something
    on your wrist to tell you:
  93. What time is it on the Earth?
    What time is it on Mars?
  94. And it wasn't just the time on Mars
    that was confusing;
  95. we also needed to be able
    to talk to each other about it.
  96. So a "sol" is a Martian day --
    again, 24 hours and 40 minutes.
  97. So when we're talking about something
    that's happening on the Earth,
  98. we will say, today.
  99. So, for Mars, we say, "tosol."
  100. (Laughter)
  101. Yesterday became "yestersol" for Mars.
  102. Again, we didn't start out thinking,
    "Oh, let's invent a language."
  103. It was just very confusing.
  104. I remember somebody
    walked up to me and said,
  105. "I would like to do this activity
    on the vehicle tomorrow, on the rover."
  106. And I said, "Tomorrow, tomorrow,
    or Mars, tomorrow?"
  107. We started this terminology because
    we needed a way to talk to each other.
  108. (Laughter)
  109. Tomorrow became "nextersol" or "solorrow."
  110. Because people have different preferences
    for the words they use.
  111. Some of you might say "soda"
    and some of you might say "pop."
  112. So we have people who say
    "nextersol" or "solorrow."
  113. And then something that I noticed after
    a few years of working on these missions,
  114. was that the people who work
    on the rovers, we say "tosol."
  115. The people who work on the
    landed missions that don't rove around,
  116. they say "tosoul."
  117. So I could actually tell what mission
    you worked on from your Martian accent.
  118. (Laughter)
  119. (Applause)
  120. So we have the watches and the language,
    and you're detecting a theme here, right?
  121. So that we don't get confused.
  122. But even the Earth daylight
    could confuse us.
  123. If you think that right now,
    you've come to work
  124. and it's the middle of the Martian night
  125. and there's light streaming in
    from the windows
  126. that's going to be confusing as well.
  127. So you can see from
    this image of the control room
  128. that all of the blinds are down.
  129. So that there's no light to distract us.
  130. The blinds went down all over the building
    about a week before landing,
  131. and they didn't go up
    until we went off Mars time.
  132. So this also works
    for the house, for at home.
  133. I've been on Mars time three times,
    and my husband is like,
  134. OK, we're getting ready for Mars time.
  135. And so he'll put foil all over the windows
    and dark curtains and shades
  136. because it also affects your families.
  137. And so here I was living in kind of
    this darkened environment, but so was he.
  138. And he'd gotten used to it.
  139. But then I would get these plaintive
    emails from him when he was at work.
  140. Should I come home? Are you awake?
  141. What time is it on Mars?
  142. And I decided, OK,
    so he needs a Mars watch.
  143. (Laughter)
  144. But of course, it's 2016,
    so there's an app for that.
  145. (Laughter)
  146. So now instead of the watches,
    we can also use our phones.
  147. But the impact on families
    was just across the board;
  148. it wasn't just those of us
    who were working on the rovers
  149. but our families as well.
  150. This is David Oh,
    one of our flight directors,
  151. and he's at the beach in Los Angeles
    with his family at 1:00 in the morning.
  152. (Laughter)
  153. So because we landed in August
  154. and his kids didn't have to go back
    to school until September,
  155. they actually went on to Mars time
    with him for one month.
  156. They got up 40 minutes later every day.
  157. And they were on dad's work schedule.
  158. So they lived on Mars time for a month
    and had these great adventures,
  159. like going bowling
    in the middle of the night
  160. or going to the beach.
  161. And one of the things
    that we all discovered
  162. is you can get anywhere in Los Angeles
  163. at 3:00 in the morning
    when there's no traffic.
  164. (Laughter)

  165. So we would get off work,

  166. and we didn't want to go home
    and bother our families,
  167. and we were hungry, so instead of
    going locally to eat something,
  168. we'd go, "Wait, there's this great
    all-night deli in Long Beach,
  169. and we can get there in 10 minutes!"
  170. So we would drive down --
    it was like the 60s, no traffic.
  171. We would drive down there,
    and the restaurant owners would go,
  172. "Who are you people?
  173. And why are you at my restaurant
    at 3:00 in the morning?"
  174. So they came to realize
    that there were these packs of Martians --
  175. (Laughter)
  176. roaming the LA freeways,
    in the middle of the night --
  177. in the middle of the Earth night.
  178. And we did actually
    start calling ourselves Martians.
  179. So those of us who were on Mars time
    would refer to ourselves as Martians,
  180. and everyone else as Earthlings.
  181. (Laughter)

  182. And that's because when you're moving
    a time-zone every day,

  183. you start to really feel separated
    from everyone else.
  184. You're literally in your own world.
  185. So I have this button on that says,
    "I survived Mars time. Sol 0-90."
  186. And there's a picture of it
    up on the screen.
  187. So the reason we got these buttons
    is because we work on Mars time
  188. in order to be as efficient as possible
    with the rover on Mars,
  189. to make the best use of our time.
  190. But we don't stay on Mars time
    for more than three to four months.
  191. Eventually, we'll move to a modified Mars
    time, which is what we're working now.
  192. And that's because it's hard on
    your bodies, it's hard on your families.
  193. In fact, there were sleep researchers
    who actually were studying us
  194. because it was so unusual for humans
    to try to extend their day.
  195. And so, I wore an [actigraph].
  196. And they had about 30 of us
  197. that they would do
    sleep deprivation experiments on.
  198. So I would come in and take the test
    and I fell asleep in each one.
  199. And that was because, again,
    this eventually becomes hard on your body.
  200. Even though it was a blast.
  201. It was a huge bonding experience
    with the other members on the team,
  202. but it is difficult to sustain.
  203. So these rover missions are our first
    steps out into the solar system.
  204. We are learning how to live
    on more than one planet.
  205. We are changing our perspective
    to become multi-planetary.
  206. So the next time you see
    a Star Wars movie,
  207. and there are people going
    from the Dagobah system to Tatooine,
  208. think about what it really means to have
    people spread out so far.
  209. What it means in terms of
    the distances between them,
  210. how they will start to feel
    separate from each other
  211. and just the logistics of the time.
  212. We have not sent people
    to Mars yet, but we hope to.
  213. And between companies like SpaceX and NASA
  214. and all of the international
    space agencies of the world,
  215. we hope to do that
    in the next few decades.
  216. So soon we will have people on Mars,
    and we truly will be multi-planetary.
  217. And the young boy or the young girl
  218. who will be going to Mars could be
    in this audience or listening today.
  219. I have wanted to work at JPL
    on these missions since I was 14 years old
  220. and I am privileged to be a part of it.
  221. And this is a remarkable time
    in the space program,
  222. and we are all in this journey together.
  223. So the next time you think
    you don't have enough time in your day,
  224. just remember, it's all a matter
    of your Earthly perspective.
  225. Thank you.
  226. (Applause)