By Whitney Haggins, Gary Beaner, Jonathan Chiang, Robin Dumas, Joy Laibl, Gabriel Rangel, Julie Reiz, Richard Van Why, and Janet Zadeh Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
Oh, What A Night! JPL OCIO’s Journey with Mars Science Laboratory
On August 5, a worldwide audience watched and celebrated the Mars Science Laboratory’s (MSL) successful Entry, Descent and Landing (EDL) and Curiosity’s touchdown on Mars. For JPL’s OCIO, it was a celebration of a successful Project partnership. This article examines the preparations for that historic night through reflections from JPL IT leads.
Robin Dumas, IT Flight Project Support Manager and Julie Reiz, Information and Configuration Manager: Preparation for EDL began years ago.
Robin: The OCIO has been involved with the MSL Project since 2006 when the decision was made to use OCIO-provided IT services rather than create a separate project IT environment. A Service Level Agreement (SLA) was carefully crafted and monitored to ensure that the project’s IT needs were being met. This required a great deal of coordination within OCIO among different IT service teams.
Julie: As EDL approached, our OCIO Flight Projects IT Readiness Initiative, an integrated cross-OCIO team that conducted weekly meetings with stakeholders and other support areas outside of the OCIO, worked to identify the types of IT support needed for critical mission events. The team focused on preparing for Curiosity’s landing and maintained open communication paths with all participants.
Gabriel Rangel, IT Solutions Strategist: The OCIO played an important role in public engagement.
As part of the Innovating Together focus, in 2009 we started working with the Mars Public Engagement Office and the Office of Communications and Education to enable new world class experiences to help tell the story of the wonders of Mars to the public. During the past three years (an IT decade), we helped to put their creative ideas into practice. It started with a cloud-hosted Be a Martian citizen science gaming web site, which then evolved into a virtual immersive experience, and a mobile application. We also helped create and deliver the Spacecraft 3D mobile augmented reality app on the iPhone and iPad. This has led to an effective and ongoing relationship where we prototype new capabilities and put them into production much more rapidly than before.
Richard Van Why, Operations Manager and MSL Support Coordinator: The OCIO provided extensive on-call and onsite support.
Preparing for EDL required extensive coordination. We met monthly with MSL Real Time Operations to ensure that all IT services and support were aligned with the Service Level Agreement and met weekly with the MSL navigation team to discuss high performance computing needs:
- The JPL Galaxy and JPL Nebula supercomputers were dedicated to MSL and ran close to 200 24-hour Monte Carlo simulations at 20 GB each.
- The OCIO supplied on-call
support from two days before
until four days after EDL, and
began onsite support the day
before through the day after
EDL. Our onsite support teams
consisted of two shifts ready to
provide any necessary support.
- Our conference room support
team ensured all critical
conference rooms were
ready for EDL and were
onsite to provide support.
We published a Support Activity
Reference Guide for our providers
with coverage schedules and
contact information for all OCIOprovided
IT services. Over 100
OCIO team members were part of
the on-call and onsite support for
MSL during their critical window.
Joy Laibl, Network Engineering
Manager: Preparing for the IT
needs of the many JPL visitors
presented a challenge.
Our biggest concern for MSL
was enabling appropriate
network access to IT resources.
MSL challenged us with their
requirements, and this enabled us
to examine technologies, brainstorm
and create effective solutions:
Communication systems had to be
increased to meet MSL’s needs.
- We worked with the project to
create role-based profiles and
defined isolated environments
to ensure appropriate access for
the right people—especially for
the MSL Science Zone, a secure
network layer where partners
and Principal Investigators
from around the world access
MSL science systems.
- We moved from hardwired
connections to ubiquitous
and pervasive Wi-Fi.
- We partnered with Cisco to
bring in 20 ruggedized access
points around critical areas for
enhanced Wi-Fi coverage.
- We laid extensive cabling for
areas needing hardwired access.
It takes a coordinated effort
and team to support an
event of this magnitude.
MeetingPlace (JPL’s audio, video,
web conferencing application from
Cisco) was upgraded to support
250-300 connections to meet
MSL’s requirements. We also:
Engineer: 8 million
hits in one minute!
- Arranged special telecom
services for the MSL
- Worked with AT&T and
Verizon to offer improved
cell phone coverage through
the use of Cell On Wheels
(COWS) in project spaces,
the main JPL auditorium,
and the central mall area.
- Established mini call centers
using VoIP phones to
accommodate the increased
calls into JPL.
guests and VIPs.
- Installed analog
lines for the
With less than four
months to the MSL EDL
event, our team had to
engineer and migrate a
legacy content management system
and the Mars public outreach Web
sites to Amazon Web Services.
Working with the Ground Data
Systems, Public Outreach and
contractor teams we developed
a solution that would download
raw images and telemetry directly
from Curiosity and place them
into Amazon S3 storage buckets.
Now the content managers for
the Mars Web sites can easily
create informative Web pages with
powerful real–time images. We
dealt with shifting requirements,
including implementing live
streaming of NASA TV and migrating
the Eyes on the Solar System Web
sites two weeks before EDL.
In short, we successfully met a high
volume of traffic and took a legacy
application and completely ported
it to a new platform in the cloud.
We delivered 120 TB of throughput
during the night in video streaming
alone. Adding the static content, we
exceeded 150 TB. In one minute the
websites served 8 million hits.