Production Journal:

I just returned from Tulsa where I reviewed all the software being written by a very energized and competent team at Williams Information Services. We also looked at the finished laser disc. I am very excited by the progress that has been made, and only slightly uneasy that everything is not yet 100% done. They were talking to the folks at NASA/McDonnell Douglas who have the Marsakhod, and working out the communication links, and thought they would have it running today. That is still an area of concern because there is yet another organization and set of software to cope with: NASA/McDonnell Douglas, Williams, and EDS, while the rest of the software is just Williams and EDS, who worked together last year and have been building on that shared relationship all this year. But it appears that the integration of NASA/McDonnell Douglas is moving along. The Marsakhod moves more quickly than I had thought, so should be a more satisfying driving experience than I feared at one point. With the people involved, it should be good!

The rest of the software, specifically the Q & A, spider matching, spider data input, and Io, are also pretty much ready to roll, a little fine-tuning still to go. We turned some 13 year-old kids loose on the prototypes and they were able to do the exercises in roughly the time we figured it would take, but only after they had a chance to become familiar with the basic commands and format. A training phase of five minutes is probably necessary, so we will need to get the PINS to let the student operators play with the second computer ahead of time, during the program.

Word from Hawaii is that the conditions there are outstanding. We hope it lasts. There are multiple flows of lava on the surface, some reaching the ocean and setting up a big plume. A tentative location for the helicopter pad, and the locations of all the other scientists and argonauts has been identified, within reasonable distance to the controll room vehicles. There is no skylight within good distance of the site, however, and that is still, pardon the pun, hanging fire.

We are now revising the script again to take into account the findings of this most recent scout, plus we are developing the alternative scenarios for rainy, pre-dawn, or otherwise problemmatic programs.

One problem we hoped would be solved is apparently not going to get fixed. We had hoped to route some of the signals over a limited-range transmission and connect to a fiber optic cable a few miles away; this would speed up the data transmission and make the interactivity run faster. As things stand now, the distance to the fiber is just too far and we will have to remain on the satellite, which has a slower "through-put" as the engineers say. It will still run a lot faster than last year, but not as fast as we hoped. Maybe we will still find a better way.

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Gene Carl Feldman ( (301) 286-9428
Todd Carlo Viola, JASON Foundation for Education (