The French Instrument Mars Operation Centre for MSL: FIMOC
The COMS (Centre d'Opérations des Missions Scientifiques: Scientific Missions Operation Center) hosts, after Rosetta, Corot, T2L2, a new operation center for Mars Science Laboratory mission: the FIMOC (French Instrument Mars Operation centre).
The FIMOC enables engineers, technicians and French scientists from CNES and CNRS laboratories involved in MSL mission, to operate ChemCam and Sam-GC instruments on board Curiosity Rover during its exploration mission of Gale Crater on Mars from August 2012 for two Earth years.
The FIMOC team ensures the monitoring and the programmation of the instruments, as well as the scientific data collection and processing.
A center as no other:
The MSL mission involves some operational constraints. After the launch, the spacecraft cruised for about 9 months before landing the rover Curiosity on Mars.
During the cruise phase numerous operation trainings were realised either in France or at JPL in order to qualify the operators.
As soon as the rover was on Mars, the operations were realised following two phases:
A first phase lasting 90 sols (Martian days): all the instruments teams were co-located at JPL in Los Angeles and the operations followed the Martian time 7 days a week.
A second phase, lasting about 2 years, that could be extended to 4, is realised from the FIMOC 5 days a week and in shifted time (California time).
For ChemCham, the operations are very restricting because every day scientific and housekeeping data need to be analysed and it needs to prepare the work plan for the instrument following a very precise activities chronology with meetings in visioconference and teleconference under JPL responsibility. In order to optimise the ressources, the operations are realised alternatively with the LANL (Los Alamos National Laboratory responsible for ChemCam instrument) by about 18 days periods.
For SAM-GC, the operations are performed depending on the samples collection. 74 rock samples should be analysed during all the mission. But when a sample is analysed by SAM, the operations last several days and the technical and scientific teams are mobilized during this time.
The FIMOC comprises:
one FIMOC manager,
10 engineers for the operations,
30 scientists for ChemCam,
10 scientists for Sam-GC.