Production Journal: January 6, 1995

The energy level is very high right now among the production team. There is a lot of pressure to get things done, and, faithful readers, I may be writing even less often as the deadlines approach.

I understand a class is using this journal as a way to create their own "mini-Jason Project" to carry out allthe key steps and culminate in a mission to a local park. What a great idea! I now have even more reason to try to keep as complete a record as possible.

Much of the current problems (most of our work now deals with problems, but that should not be considered some kind of negative. Solving problems is both fun and the best way to learn.) revolve around two things. Either technical matters or coordination among the various people collaborating on the project. Right now the engineers working on the Lava Crane have concerns which we have not been able to answer, such as how to anchor to the hardened lava. At this moment, there are surface flows of lava all over the area that, six months ago, we thought would be where we would set up. Surface flows means flowing, molten lava. Obviously, we need to go and pick a new place, but even in the course of the two-week program we may have to move. So questions about anchoring cables to the ground are significant but unfortunately difficult questions. We have been finding out interesting statistics like the expected rate of flow of lava (nominal velocity 2 meters/second) and the temperature range (1120 to 1155 C). The conditions outside the lava tubes are hostile in their own way: wind can gust over 30 mph and it will probably rain a fair amount, but that is nothing compared to the acidity of the volcanic gases which has a Ph between 0 and 1. Exposed wires are attacked within minutes. Not a great place to run a machine.

Have I talked about the side screens? They will have images from a laser disc which is controlled from our site in Hawaii. The disc has to be done in time to use it in training technicians on February 3. Working from that date backwards, I have to finish editing a master tape to be transfered to videodisc by Feb. 26, but to be safe we are aiming for the 20th. This is a little earlier than some of our animation people had planned, so there is now a crush going on to work faster. I will today finalize the list of scenes on that disc, unless I spend much longer writing this journal.

The other thing on my list today is to prepare a detailed description of the interactivity exercises which are already being created but their components have been kept somewhat separate. Today is the day to figure out, on almost a second-by-second basis, what happens on each screen while these exercises are being run, and make sure there is nothing being forgotten.

The Marsakhod is due to receive a full field test with the coordination of NASA software and the new software we have developed to link it to our system. That is slated for January 16 in California. We test interactivity software in Tulsa (with kids) January 31. An advance team is going to Hawaii for a last minute appraisal January 24.

Other logistics: one of the most difficult tasks is getting the signal over the last few miles to our site. If we were setting up in a town, we could plug into existing eelectricity, use regular phones, etc. But down on the lava field we are cut off and have to use our own resources. Consequently we have to use the satellite, basically because we can only get within a few miles of wires, for communications which would otherwise be over land lines. It is the last 10 miles that is the killer. I am told that the exact path will be determined today. One thing that follows from this is the necessity of taking with us every little item we might need, including telephones, that are not usually part of a normal field production. We are making long, long lists of equipment that we need, lists which will be checked many times to make sure everything gets there. If I can, I will try to put in a sample soon. This is the detail stage of planning. We have 8 phone lines. Which line does what? We have a plan. Each line is allocated. Someone has to make sure telephones themselves are on the list and are brought along. What kind of phones? Someone has to make that decision. This is a very small detail, but it is one of thousands of little things that can cause problems if no one has thought about it. Just one example of things we cannot assume.

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