Five Years – an engineer’s perspective looking back

By Mike Deliman

Back in 1994, a few of us at WRS had the pleasure of working with JPL on a
mission based on a radical new concept:  using Commercial
Off-The-Shell  (COTS) products to build a planetary probe.  In the
past, all such deep space probes (etc) had been designed and built just
for the mission at hand, each new mission required a new computer
design, etc.  There were a few things about this project that really
stood-out.  One, the chance to help NASA/JPL save a lot of resources
by switching over to a successful COTS based platform, which could be
used again and again.   Two: a chance to be a part of history, helping
continue NASA's legacy of exploring our solar system.  Three: this was
truely a team effort – when problems were encountered, they were worked
on as a team, any problem encountered was reviewed in a
non-confrontational manner – "We did this, then this, then this, and
the computer/OS did that…  is that expected?"

It was a
refreshing project.  When it finally came to a close, and Mars
Pathfinder (MPF) stopped sending signals, it was almost like losing a
child.  For me, it felt like nothing I'd ever work on would be so
significant, not just for me, but for the world.  It felt like I'd
reached my pinnacle, nothing could possibly be nearly so exciting and
fulfilling.

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