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In the January 1st, 2008 Rose Parade, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory had a float, prominently displaying a model Mars Rover.  Commentators stated that scientists from JPL helped to decorate the float, which celebrates (if that’s the right word) 50 years of the U.S. in space.  Why are the Mars Rovers significant to the SAP community? 

Four years ago, the 2nd and 3rd Mars Rovers started operating.  Prior to that, the 1st rover was designed to run for 30 days, and ran for 90 (a factor of 3).  The current rovers were designed to last for 90 days, and have beaten that by 15 times!  Every few weeks, when I’m stuck on a project that isn’t going that great, I check in to the Mars Rover home page and am just amazed all over again what that team has accomplished.

Over the years, I’ve collaborated with amazing people on free software.  While my contributions have been meager, I have been able to see some truly awesome givers at work, such as Mark Adler.  Mark has donated time and energy to zip, gzip and png, compression software that has allowed faster network throughput, meaning those high resolution photos of the Martian surface get here faster.  He’s currently working on the next generation project to bring samples back to Earth.

So, what does this mean to me?  First, build a product and deliver it on time, beyond specifications.  Once the doors shut on the rocket for the last time, no repairs are allowed except what you can do by remote control.

Next, don’t make mistakes.  Here’s a link to one that cost millions –

http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2004/oct/HQ_n04158_noaa_n_mishap.html

http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/65776main_noaa_np_mishap.pdf

Finally, the moral for me is that we can achieve what we set out to do.  President Kennedy challenged us to land on the moon by 1970, and I witnessed the outcome in 1969.  Whether the challenge is global warming, energy costs or software reliability, we can make it better.

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