Spirit Sol 7

I'm still catching up on my sleep, so I miss the entire science meeting. Unfortunately, this means I miss some new MTES data, which I'm told was spectacular. And they've discovered carbonates -- not evidence of life, necessarily, but exciting news nevertheless. I wish I'd seen that data. Oh, well, they'll show it at the press conference.

Meanwhile, we have new front HAZCAM images to play with. The nice thing about HAZCAM images is that they give you what I think of as a rover's-eye view. The HAZCAMs are mounted on the rover's body, two on the front and two on the rear of the big gold box (the WEB, or Warm Electronics Box) that houses the rover's brain. The NAVCAM and PANCAM images come from mast height, which is closer to an adult human's height, so they're more like what you'd see standing there. But the HAZCAMs are used for the mobility system, so they show the view the rover uses when it's thinking about the terrain. (This is a simplification; we could use the NAVCAMs for driving, for example, but that's more or less how it works.)

Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech. A view from the front HAZCAMs.

The rover started standup okay, which is an important step towards getting off the lander. Matt Wallace reports that there's some ambiguity in the data, but they think everything is fine. We have images showing the front wheels are deployed. Score!

Brian was here doing interviews for a couple of hours today, so he leaves early. Apparently there is press demand for random rover drivers, so maybe I'll go by and try my luck at that, after all. We'll see. First I have to think about whether I have anything to say.

I get around to checking my email and find some actual work to do -- there's a trivial problem in a file we use to expand SAP[1]-produced activity plans to commands. I don't produce the file, so it's nothing I can fix -- the file's owner has already fixed it, anyway -- but I test it out myself, just to be sure. Everything's fine now, as expected.

I've found something useful to do with my time after all: writing documentation! That always gets pushed off to the last minute, and our development was hardly an exception. I've written some documentation for my software, but not enough, and every day they slip egress is another day I can beef up the docs. It'll pay off sometime -- they'll find what they need in the docs so they decide they don't have to wake me, for instance. (Like that ever happens. Real world: "I don't know how to do this and we've got to uplink in 5 minutes. Get Scott." Oh, well.)

I've taken to working in the Sequencing MSA so that I can listen in on the VOCA[2] net, which lets me monitor the SMSA. In addition, the command approval meetings happen in here, and there's a TV so I can watch the press conference when that happens. It almost makes me feel like I'm a part of what's happening here.

There's concern over restlessness in the press; delaying egress isn't making them any happier than it makes us. We want to make the point that this is the sort of thing we expect to happen during this phase, and are deliberately going slowly, trying to ensure we don't make a mistake. Pete Theisinger asks, "If you'd told us a week ago that we'd have a functioning rover on Mars but it would take us four or five extra days to get off the lander, would you have made the trade?" It's a rhetorical question, of course: hell, yes, we'd have made the trade! Pete makes that point later, in the press conference, and it gets a laugh while making the point.

Pete, incidentally, is the anti-bullshit. The only thing that works with him is to be absolutely straightforward and to have your shit together, because he looks at you with these laser eyes that see all the way down into your soul and can tell when you're trying to put one over on him. So you don't try. There's something utterly solid about Pete's personality, and he makes that work for him when he talks to the press. He seems to decide that *this* is how they're going to perceive the situation, and they do. I need to learn that.

Just before the press conference starts, there's a small crisis: Matt Wallace calls Art Thompson's cell phone, wanting to know the name of the Bob Marley song we played to "wake up" the rover this morning. "It's called 'Stand Up, Wake Up,' right?" I hear Art saying. "Or is it 'Wake Up, Stand Up'? Because you have to wake up before you can stand up?" People in the room are shrugging. Don't these people know anything? "It's 'Get Up, Stand Up,'" I tell him, and he tells Matt, and a few minutes later it comes out of Matt's mouth in the press conference. There's something cool about that.

Some people are complaining about not having had a day off. I'm thinking, "The greatest thing ever is happening right here, and you want to be somewhere else?" But it's not the first Mars rover for some of these people -- they've done this before, and while they're not exactly blasé about it, they're not necessarily going to feel as excited as I do. (And besides, sometimes people complain that they haven't had a day off, not because they're really upset about it, but just to advertise the fact that they're working hard, because they want a pat on the back.) Maybe I'll feel that way later, but it's hard to imagine it right now.

The big news, though, is that the President is calling for a manned mission to the moon, establishing a permanent space station there, and then on to Mars. If this guy isn't careful, he's going to make me like him.[3]


[1] The Science Activity Planner, a sort of software whiteboard we use to sketch out our high-level plan for the day before we get down to the real low-level work of sequencing it all.

[2] I don't actually know what VOCA stands for -- Voice something something something. Voice Operational Communications Assembly (thanks, Edwin Devers!). It's a sort of multi-way intercom for the operations team.

[3] As it turns out: not so much.


Edwin Devers said...

Thanks Scott for the daily reading. I love it. By the way VOCA stands for Voice Operational Communications Assembly.

Anonymous said...

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