I just took the ‘NASA test-drive’ … and I liked it.

I remember the day that I received the first call from my mentor (Yutao He). I was at lunch buying some stuff at Ralphs. I suddenly got speechless, I could not believe they had actually selected me for this opportunity. I think that I’ve never been so excited about anything in my entire life (and I am always very excited about almost everything).

Then there was the ‘timing’ issue that I had to coordinate with my current boss. So, thanks to Eric I was able to allocate the necessary amount of hours in order to participate in the Student Independent Research Program.

JPL was like being in another world. I had to work for several hours in a row inside an extremely cold lab room. My hands and feet were so iced that I had to leave my workplace every fifteen minutes to see the shiny sun of Pasadena and the amazing mountains, the clear sky. Often, in the mornings, I would purposely arrive earlier than usual and run around all the buildings to gain some extra heat that I sooo needed, and of course, to enjoy the beautiful landscape.

But the most memorable thing besides working with my amazing colleague interns at the lab, was meeting the Mars Science Laboratory team. The first time that I heard from them was on what they call at JPL an ‘RDO’ Friday, which is a day off for most of the scientists that are on a 9/40 working schedule. As part of the SIRI Program tour, we visited the Mars Science Laboratory, and it turned out that they were doing some of the first tests with a replica of the robot that was just sent to Mars in November 2011. I and all the students were so excited watching from the viewing gallery, that Scott Maxwell (yes, the Mars Rover driver) removed his white robe and came to us to explain in detail many interesting things about the project.

He was so enthusiastic, so excited, that we would only listen and listen and listen. I personally was amazed to see someone so in love with his project, and so helpful, and so willing to help others interested in this topic too…Scott was ‘something. ‘

I decided that I definitively wanted another historical picture (besides the one with the pioneers of the Internet) with him and his team. Before the end of my internship, I contacted him and asked him about it. His reaction, was astonishing. He was soooo helpful and demonstrated me so much excitement…wow. Suddenly he gathered his team (I’m sure they were very busy) and everybody came to the ISIL lab to give me something memorable, something that I would treasure with love and admiration for the rest of my whole life, and which was, this set of pictures with these men and women that made great contributions to the history of our civilization, that are history themselves and are so human and so humble enough to share a minute of their important and busy time with a simple CS student, like me.

The world is proud of you, and have big hopes on your work, guys.

So, thank you, MSL team and specially Scott, for making this possible. I will always remember you and I will talk about your team wherever I go, and hopefully someday I can do great contributions to the world like all of you do everyday with your work.

A big warm hug and my best wishes to you.

Arleena