Porkchop is the First Menu Item on a Trip to Mars NASA

Ancient cultures looked to the patterns of tea leaves or animal entrails to divine the course of the future. At JPL, the course of a future Mars mission can be found in a porkchop. Porkchop plot, that is. In the sometimes peculiar vocabulary of JPL mission designers, that nickname describes the porkchop-shaped, computer-generated, contour plots that display the launch date and arrival date characteristics of an interplanetary flight path for a given launch opportunity to Mars or any other planet. Developing a porkchop plot is the first thing on the menu when mission designers are scoping out an interplanetary voyage. This is the sort of task accomplished by engineers in JPL’s Navigation and Mission Design Section, whose unique, high-caliber expertise is signified by its recognition as NASA Center of Excellence.