To conduct a scientific investigation of a distant celestial body from a moving spacecraft, especially one designed to image multiple bodies, all moving and consequently found in different locations at different times, on a mission that has 10 other investigations also wanting to do the same, can be a very complex and challenging affair.
The work of getting ready for our first observations of Saturn that would occur in early 2004 had begun to some extent many years before, in the mid-1990s, but accelerated in the fall of 2002. By that time, the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS), the central operations node for the Cassini Imaging experiment, was headquartered at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and the team grew substantially in size.
Tasks before us included building the essential elements of a ground operations system that would support both the creation and final uplink of commands to our onboard cameras, as well as the ingestion of the resulting imaging data from JPL into our database in CICLOPS. These elements included, for uplink, the software, protocols, procedures, and scripts for planning, executing, and checking our imaging sequence commands to ensure accuracy and that they didn't conflict with the instrument commands of other investigations, before shipping them to JPL. And, for downlink, along with ingestion into our database, scripts were written to navigate the resulting images in order to extract information that told imaging scientists, among other things, where exactly in space and on the target the image was pointed.
CICLOPS was also the team largely responsible for processing and captioning images for public consumption and releasing them to the public. During the first 6 or 7 years of the project, this was a daily occurrence, and was very much like running a news magazine. When there was something new and unexpected in an images -- and that was often -- image releases were accompanied by press releases announcing the discovery. These also were written within CICLOPS.
Over the 15 years between 2002 and the end of the mission, members of the CICLOPS team came and went, but overall the team changed very little. Here are those stellar people who were there at the close of the mission, and whose exceptional skills, dazzling talent, and hard work and dedication brought the entire world that unprecedented and glorious visual record of our historic travels around Saturn.
Team members are, from left to right, back row: Bob West (Deputy Team Leader), Myron McCallum, Ben Knowles, Josh Riley, Carolyn Porco (Team Leader),
Front row: Emily Baker, Nicole Martin, Colin Mitchell, Steve Mullins
Left to right: Ben Knowles, Myron McCallum, Carolyn Porco, Nicole Martin, Emily Baker, Steve Mullins