Spirit Sol 9

Bah. Egress has been delayed at least one sol, due to unspecified testbed problems. They'll get a great science sol tomorrow because of this, but it sucks for me. Oh, well.

Yesterday they got such good downlink that they "bled the rover dry" -- they actually downlinked everything that was on board. This is something of a sin, however, as it means we could have gotten more science data than we did. They're resolved not to let this happen again, and most of the rest of the science meeting is dedicated to filling up the rover's on-board memory with as much science data as they can cram in there. They'll get a good chance to do that, as they can get about 6 to 6.5 hours of science in tomorrow. 3-3.5 hours of that is already dedicated to completing the PANCAM/MTES mission success panorama, but the rest is up for grabs, and there are a lot of people grabbing. The leading candidate is to get data using the PANCAM geologic filters.

They've been unsuccessful in their attempts to image the magnets so far, and may decide to "search" for them. They'll decide that at the SOWG meeting later.

There's a long discussion of long-term planning (LTP), which is currently looking at sols 22 through 24. A multispectral soak and a 3-D picture of the lander from the rover are among the activities vying for time.

That meeting over, I hang out in the Sequencing MSA so that I can listen in on the SMSA. They have an hour to kill before the Odyssey pass, so they announce that they're putting up political editorial cartoons on some of the monitors in there. I check them out. They're all positive, which is quite gratifying. At least half are variations on the theme of finding Osama and/or WMDs (and, in one case, Jimmy Hoffa). My favorite, though, is by the LA Times's Paul Conrad, showing an airbag-swaddled lander bouncing across the Martian surface, with this caption: "One giant bounce for mankind." I like both meanings. I print out a copy and tape it up near my desk.

The PANCAM team is happy once again, as they've acquired a large, minimally compressed image of the far hills. Word of this spreads rapidly, and dozens of people -- including me, of course -- crowd into the PANCAM room to get a glimpse.

Not much more happens before the next meeting, our first real SOWG[1]. For the fun of it, I seat myself at the Rover Planner workstation, even though there's no RP work to do today.

During our many pre-landing tests, the SOWG worked a little differently: there was one mike, and it got handed to whoever was speaking. (The downlink assessment meetings still work much like this.) They now have a different setup, with desk-mounted mikes for every position. I wonder how this will work -- the one-mike approach forced a certain discipline on the meetings; if everyone can talk at once, the meetings might take on a different structure. Apparently thinking along similar lines, Squyres announces that he has a master mute switch .... Well, this will be a good experiment to see how much of the civil behavior we've seen from the scientists is due to the structure of the meeting as imposed by the technological constraints, and how much is due to their character. Unfortunately for anyone who's looking for fireworks, I keep getting the impression that they're genuinely polite and respectful for the most part. So there won't be much Jerry Springer would be happy about, but I think I'll live.

The rocks are starting to pick up names. Magic Carpet. Aladdin. Sparky. And over by (in?) Sleepy Hollow is now an Ichabod Flat, as well as, in the distance, Lonely Mountain.

The plan worked out at the SOWG is ambitious, as it's meant to be. MTES on Magic Carpet, Sleepy Hollow, and Sparky, plus a PANCAM magnet search. It's deliberately overscheduled by 20 minutes, just so some science will happen in the case of an unexpected underrun elsewhere. We should generate 270Mbits of data tomorrow alone.

I'm not the only tea drinker on the project. Ken Herkenhoff is one as well, which fits because he's very civilized. While we're having a brief chat about that, we get word that Spirit's IDD has released and entered the stowed-for-drive position for the first time. Ken's happy -- as an MI guy, this means he has a job.

The day's second SOWG, which focuses on the LTP sols, is less interesting than the first. The SOWG is the less fun part of science anyway -- the downlink assessment meeting is where it's at. The downlink assessment meeting spends a lot of time on hypothesizing and high-level horse trading (you let me get my data today and I'll let you get your data tomorrow), with lots of new facts and interesting ideas and personality conflicts, while the SOWG is more about grinding through the details of how we're going to squeeze everything into the sol. (Guess which one I officially have to attend as the rover planner? Yeah, that's the one.) Since they don't need me yet anyway, I end up bugging out before the end and go hack some code instead.

I take a moment to show Brian my new business card, the one that identifies me as "Mars Rover Driver." He's suitably jealous. I can't wait for the description to become accurate.

Despite the good news about releasing the IDD, cutting the final (middle-wheel) cable, switching to a tactical process, and getting a nice big chunk of PANCAM data, the morning press conference is a little thin, with only Arthur Amador and John Callas on the panel. Lucky them, they get to tell the press that egress has been delayed once more, losing half of yesterday's gains. Mars giveth, and Mars taketh away.


[1] Science Operations Working Group, the name of the meeting where they formally sketch out the high-level science goals for the day.


gawne said...

Hey Scott,

These are fun reading. You're making me wish I'd kept a similar diary for my past spacecraft to post five years later. I find myself nodding a lot (I'm a member of many **WGs, for example). At least I don't have to compete for 70 meter downlink time.

Bill Gawne

James Canvin said...

"and most of the rest of the science meeting is dedicated to filling up the rover's on-board memory with as much science data as they can cram in there."

Why do I have a bad feeling about this...