2009-01-30

Spirit Sol 27

I have one interview scheduled for today: the Dallas Morning News. I decide to make this interview go better than yesterday's interviews, by sheer willpower if I have to, with some success. The only real mistake I make is one that I made once or twice before, but recognized as a mistake only today: when she asks me what I'm doing while I have no rover to drive, I say, "I'm doing press." Which I think is funny, but now that I think about it, the press is going to see that as an insult, not as a joke. Oops. So that's the last time I say that. There's always a better way to spin it, anyway: "I'm taking advantage of this relatively uncommitted time to try to share some of my enthusiasm for this project with the public." My first way was funnier, though.

I also miss an opportunity at the end of the interview. She asks what I'll feel when the mission is over, and I tell her that I'll feel sad that the rovers are gone but proud of what we've accomplished. Which is OK, but I should have emphasized that the scientific gains will continue even after the rovers go silent -- Pathfinder's data is still being analyzed, seven years later, and we're sending back way more data than Pathfinder. But this is a minor omission at worst, and I'll look at it as a learning experience. Somebody else will ask that question; I'll get another chance to do it right. I call this a win. Score one for willpower.

Rick Welch doesn't know what's wrong with Spirit, either. Seems nobody does. We talk about it for a little while anyway.

There actually is a downlink assessment meeting today, so I go. We've lost a lot of time, so they're trying to optimize the future, to save a sol anywhere they can. I try to get them to tell me where they plan to drive, so I can plan ahead, but it's too early. I listen carefully to the discussion and hit them up afterwards, after they've had a little more discussion time. They want to go to a white rock named White Boat, and they don't care about Sleepy Hollow (which would be the other direction). Bingo.

There's a running discussion about our needing to drive. Opportunity has a lot of reasons to stay in its local region; there's a lot of science in the crater that won't be available outside of the crater. They'll be there until sol 30 or 40, another three or four weeks, at least. It's different with Spirit: the stuff around Spirit now is the same kind of stuff we'll see along the way to the crater that lies to the northeast ("Bonneville"). We need to study Adirondack more, but part of full mission success means driving 1km with at least one rover, and we don't want to put pressure on them to be the ones to drive. So we're going to. Which would be great, if only we could actually get moving.

Matt Golombek says Opportunity may not be in the crater we thought it was in. They don't have all the EDL data yet, and we can't see much of the surrounding world from inside the crater, so that makes it hard to tell where we are. "Are you sure we're on Mars?" someone asks. "We don't know where we are, but we're in a great spot," Matt says.

The Spirit mission is gearing back up. Normal schedule resumes tomorrow. "Vacation's over," says Dave Des Marais, who's running the meeting. "We're back in business." White Boat is a flat, 40cm-wide rock almost straight south from the lander, southeast of our current position. Driving there will nearly double our current mileage (6.14m). Our goal is to get about 1m to 2m away, MTES it, then decide whether to IDD it or move on.

I spend much of the rest of the day working on a candidate White Boat traverse. My first cut at it is the most conservative possible approach: back away from Adirondack, turn 90 degrees, and drive completely around Adirondack to go to White Boat. This is unnecessarily paranoid, since we have about 10cm of clearance over Adirondack, but I can just see myself coming in the first day after the drive to learn we've gotten the rover stuck permanently on Adirondack. So I go out of my way -- more precisely, I have the rover go out of its way -- to avoid this.

While I'm planning the traverse, Ashitey passes on an unusual request from Bob Bonitz. We're releasing Opportunity's IDD for the first time tonight, and Bob wants us to play a particular song for the occasion: Englebert Humperdinck's "Release Me." The request has come to me because I'm a Mac guy among other things, and they're hoping I'll know how to get the song off of Apple's iTunes Music Service. As it happens, iTMS doesn't have the Englebert Humperdinck version of the song, but they do have a wonderfully cheesy Elvis cover, which turns out to be a big hit and prompts a round of applause in the SMSA.

At the end of the night, John Wright and I have a lengthy discussion about HyperDrive's various levels of modeling and how to use them. I don't think anybody but John really understands this, but after his explanation, I understand it as well as he does. At one point the conversation turns to my own recent frustrations with SEQGEN. As I start getting worked up about it, John says, "We've got the greatest job in the world, right? And we're not gonna let SEQGEN take that away from us." Fuckin' A.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey man, you space-rocket dudes are so freakin cool! I love to read ur blog when I'm stoned! <8)

yarp said...

Scott, I suggest you add Ashitey to the MER glossary because you are very often talking about him. Also I suggest you make 2 separate lists (on the same page): One for the persons and one for the Acronyms.
Just my 2 cents, do as you wish. Thanks.
I was sad for the poor cat and tols my big fat cat, lying on the couch, how hard the life could be for a cat in california. Beep, Beep. I'm affraid she didn't really care.

Scott Maxwell said...

@yarp Done and done!

Yarp said...

How fast, thanks.