Today's my day off. Naturally, I go to work anyway. I don't plan to stick around for the whole day, but I figure I'll go to the downlink assessment meeting and maybe stay through the SOWG meeting. The rest of the time I can spend catching up on pretty pictures.
On my way in I glance at the LA Times in the newspaper dispenser. The column-one headline reads, "Kicking the Tires on Mars." That's the story I've been waiting for. I buy two copies. Reading the story, I'm relieved to see my worries about it were entirely misplaced. I'm also laughing as I read it, because of the ways in which it extends my utter lack of fame. I'm mentioned by name (including my middle initial, probably because that's how it is on the business card I gave them) but not quoted, and I'm in the inside-page picture but not listed in the caption. (Frank, Brian, and Chris are in the foreground, wearing the 3-D goggles; I'm barely visible in the background. This is the shot I figured the photographer wanted, and it's why I didn't put on the goggles while he was there. Team effort, man.) I naturally have my own caption for this image: "The other rover drivers and I drive the rover. Not pictured: me." Also not pictured is John, who was there but was off the right-hand side of the frame in this picture. So I guess John is even less famous than I am, if that's possible.
This puts me in a good mood. I have a couple of interviews scheduled for tomorrow, and all of a sudden I'm not worried about them, not in the slightest. I have a whole different attitude about that now. I show the paper to Frank and Brian; and Mark Maimone, who's quoted several times in the story, comes in with a stack of copies and starts handing them out. We're famous! Except me. And that's cool.
But now it's time for real work. The downlink assessment meeting is going well, with limited data downlinked so far but everything coming out as expected. In particular, yesterday's missing HAZCAM image has been acquired, so we can IDD the damn rock, already. On the projection screen is a thumbnail color PANCAM mosaic of the rover's look back at the lander. When we get the whole thing, it's bound to make the front page (making it more famous than we are, but I digress).
They've picked two RATable spots on Adirondack, named "Buck" and "Black," both of them kind of low on the rock face. (In unison, Frank, Brian, and I get up and walk over to the projection screen for a better look.) Squyres wants to work with higher spots on the rock because the rock surface looks cleaner there, but Eric hasn't been able to find a suitable target yet. So Buck or Black it is. After we're finished with Adirondack, we'll probably try to drive to one of the white rocks (probably the one named "White Boat") before we have to pause for Opportunity's landing.
They discuss some recent NAVCAM data of the wheel tracks, showing a nice close-up view of pebbles pressed into the soil by our traverse. Coooool.
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech. Pebbles squished into the soil by Spirit.
Just as the meeting is ending, Squyres calls for volunteers to shift to Opportunity's landing site, Meridiani. This is a tough decision for the scientists: which site will yield more publishable papers, a better investment for the time they've put into this project? It's a gamble, the type that could make or break careers. At the moment, I don't mind not being in their shoes.
I go to the SOWG but mostly ignore it, instead hauling out my Mac so I can hack on our Linux Journal article, which is just about good enough to send out. We're just waiting for Opportunity to land. I keep enough of an ear out to hear that they've found two more RATable spots on Adirondack, "Blue" (apparently so that they'll have "Black" and "Blue") and "Prospect." The latter is now our #1 target because it's the highest and presumably cleanest of the four. The plan is to MI Prospect, then APXS it, then MB it, then RAT it, then MI again. I think. I'm missing a lot, working on the article. I promise myself I'll read the notes from the SOWG, but I don't. This meeting is boring when you're not in the hot seat, I reflect once more (meaning that it's boring when it's not terrifying). I decide it's time to go home.
It's the MLK holiday, so the JPL cafeteria is closed. Neither Frank nor I thought of that, but I'm free to go get food and he's not (since he's on shift and I'm not), so I offer to bring him something from off-Lab before I disappear altogether for the day. Unfortunately, this offer somehow starts to take on a life of its own, and Art Thompson asks whether I'm willing to do a food run for everybody. That's way more than I bargained for. I want to help out, but I know how this works: if I do it once, I'll get saddled with the job forever, and end up bitterly regretting it when I'm on shift. So I say no and bug out. And feel like an asshole, but to hell with it; I want to get out of there.
It's only 11:30 AM, and I don't have to go to sleep until 10 PM. Everything in between is mine. The day seems to stretch out endlessly; I can hardly decide what to do with the time. I decide to go book shopping and have lunch with Candy.
Just as Candy starts her lunch break, my cell phone rings. Cindy Oda and Brian are having a problem with something in the RoSE-SEQGEN interface, and it takes 15 minutes (during which time my cell phone battery dies and I have to call them back from Candy's phone) to track the problem down to a known SEQGEN bug. There's an easy workaround, but it irritates all of us and fouls Candy's mood. Damn it.