Rehearsals don't always go so well, which is the whole point of rehearsals. That was true both for us and for the Russians today, in separate simulations of mission operations.
At 11 this morning, we received an email from Vladimir Nazarov, who is the mission Ground and Onboard Data Processing Manager at IKI. He said,
"We made tests last night. In the tests were involved IKI, Tarusa, Panska Ves, and simulation of Kamchatka [Petropavlovsk]. And during the work a storm happen between Panska Ves and Prague and all connectivity (including Internet and regular phone lines) was broken, so we finished tests by transmission of data from Panska Ves by cellular phones."
Now, it is quite common for mission rehearsals to include simulated disasters of all kinds -- we're running through all sorts of "off-nominal" scenarios this week. So we here at POP assumed that Nazarov meant that the simulation included a simulated storm at Panska Ves. In fact, Lou Friedman -- my boss, and the Director of the Cosmos 1 project -- responded in an email to Nazarov "I assume you mean that storm destroying Panska Ves was simulation? Shall we simulate earthquake here?" Nazarov's reply was, "It was not simulation." Yikes. Thank goodness for cell phones.
This afternoon, we had our own rehearsal, one in which we were trying to coordinate how we will be transmitting updates on the status of the mission to the media and the public who will be with us either physically, at our little house in Pasadena, or virtually, via the Web. And the first thing that happened in our rehearsal was that the complicated phone system that we use to connect us to Russia and Majuro failed to work. Shrieking feedback erupted through the whole building. We eventually got it to work, but not until the simulated "launch" had already taken place. Yikes again.
So -- we learn. We have a huge list of "lessons learned" from today, and I'm going to be staying up late implementing a very long to-do list.
Some things are going really well, though. Lou just told me that he heard from Russia this morning that the spacecraft, now mounted on the Volna rocket, is being loaded onto the submarine tomorrow morning. Another step forward. After that Lou looked at our digital countdown clock and said, "that number's too small." But it isn't. Yes, there really are less than six days left before we launch.