Seeing Like a Rover: How Robots, Teams, and Images Craft by Janet Vertesi

By Janet Vertesi

In the years because the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit and Rover first begun transmitting pictures from the skin of Mars, now we have familiarize yourself with the cruel, rocky, rusty-red Martian panorama. yet these pictures are less common than they might appear to a layperson: every one is the results of a classy set of choices and approaches related to the big workforce in the back of the Rovers.
            With Seeing Like a Rover, Janet Vertesi takes us behind the curtain to bare the paintings that is going into growing our wisdom of Mars. each photo that the Rovers take, she indicates, has to be processed, manipulated, and interpreted—and all that comes after workforce contributors negotiate with one another approximately what they need to also be taking pictures of within the first position. Vertesi’s account of the inspiringly winning Rover undertaking unearths technology in motion, an international the place electronic processing uncovers clinical truths, the place photos are used to craft consensus, and the place crew contributors advance an uncanny intimacy with the sensory gear of a robotic that's hundreds of thousands of miles away. eventually, Vertesi indicates, each photo taken by way of the Mars Rovers isn't really in basic terms an image of Mars—it’s a portrait of the total Rover group, as well.

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Images cannot be drawn as just anything at all: they are subject to local norms and “constraints” that both delimit visual transformation and circumscribe scientific claims and persons. I therefore describe the mathematical practices and analog work in the field on Earth that scientists produce and invoke to generate claims they consider trustworthy. Ultimately, community constraints on visual interpretation shape both the subjects and the objects of analysis on Mars. Introduction 23 In chapter 8 I move away from the team-centered view to place image work in the context of the public patronage networks of NASA and planetary science.

Courtesy of NASA/JPL/Cornell. 59 Participants recognize the ritual closing as an opportunity for them to request any information they need to do their job that day. For example: Chair: Rover Planners, are you happy? RP: Are we happy? Do we have a sequence number for the drive? 60 The ritual response pair has become so common that it is often subject to joking. ”64 Once all members have stated their “happiness,” this indicates that the planning process is over and the next stage of assembling the agreed-on commands can begin.

Rover health and safety were frequently invoked as a reason engineering images needed to take priority over scientific images. At the time of my fieldwork, the rovers were already running hundreds of sols over their recommended ninety-day limit, but the team still treated the threat of rover death as imminent. Not taking an image that could protect the rover from injury constituted an unacceptable threat. But death was invoked as an argument for scientific observations as well. For example, as a scientist suggested trimming to a three-filter instead of a thirteen-filter Pancam observation, the SOWG Chair refused, saying, “I don’t know what the science objective is for it .

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