2009-02-02

Spirit Sol 30

At last, we have real work to do again. We're going to take the MB off of Adirondack, where it's been for the last week and a half or so while we've been stuck in one place, and use the RAT, MI, MB (again), and APXS all in one sol. And guess who gets to make it all work?

Luckily, I'm not alone. Chris Leger is shadowing me[1], which is a surprise to me because of a mistake I made. I can't stand spreadsheets -- I like everything to be in plain text, a nice lowest-common-denominator format you can use from anywhere. But managers love spreadsheets; they send us our schedules in a spreadsheet. So I wrote a Perl script to convert the spreadsheet schedule into plain text. I recently had to change the script extensively because they changed the spreadsheet format, and my changes introduced a bug -- all of our schedules were off by a day. It didn't affect me, because I come in every day anyway, but if Chris had believed my script's output, he'd have missed his shadow shift. Fortunately, he doesn't trust my work (or something), and he checked the original schedule, which said to come in today. So I've got a shadow.

The downlink assessment meeting is beginning to resemble its former self. They review the state of the spacecraft (nearly normal, though we're still in low-power mode and they still need to reformat the flash) and sketch out the next few sols.

One important consideration in their planning is the need to drive. Mike Carr, who's chairing the meeting, points out, "We've been at this location for a month now. And I feel really strongly that it's time to move on." If we can't remove and replace the IDD tomorrow, the science we're doing will take yet another sol, and they don't want to do that.

Larry Someone (I don't know his last name[2]) gives a presentation in which he argues against even doing the RAT brush activity tomorrow. (This is where we'll place the RAT on a rock -- Adirondack, of course -- for the first time ever, and spin its brushes without forcing the drill bits into the rock. The effect is to brush away any loose surface covering without drilling a hole.) His main point seems to be that brushing is useful only if Adirondack has a coating of loose dust, and since there are lots of people waiting to do traverse science, we should drop the brushing entirely. But he doesn't win many converts: when they take a vote, I don't see anyone else raise a hand to support him. (As one of the objectors pointed out, what if something happens during the drive and we don't ever brush any rocks? We'll have missed an opportunity to learn a lot about the Martian dust and how it interacts with the rocks here. For one thing, if brushing doesn't change anything, it will tell us that the dust on the rock likely is not atmospheric dust but is somehow intrinsic to the rock itself.) So that's it. As long as it doesn't cost a sol, the RAT brush activity is on.

The day's sequences have supposedly already been built. They're the ones we were going to run on sol 18, before we got stuck. But when I check them out, they don't seem to match the day's plan, which is undergoing lots of changes anyway. Argh.

By the time the day's plan settles down, the picture is better and worse than I thought. The part of the sequencing that's done is similar to the plan, though not identical; it will require a lot of careful attention to the details. About half of the work is not done at all. It's one of the most complex days we've ever tried to sequence, even in testing, and certainly the most complex day we've tried to sequence for real. Andy [Mishkin] is nervous about whether it can get done, and it doesn't help that he's been stressed lately anyway. In my inimitable fashion, I decide to take this as a challenge and do it all myself, which nearly happens. By the time John Wright (today's RP-2) shows up, I'm nearly finished, and we've got hours to go yet. By the time of the activity plan review -- more than an hour left in my shift -- I'm essentially done, except for plugging in some sequence IDs I don't have yet.[3] And they make some changes at the review, changes that simplify the plan a little -- I end up having to discard some work.

Hot damn, I'm good. Unless I'm not. I guess we'll see tomorrow.

We spend a lot of time reviewing the sequences, which is just as well considering their complexity, and I leave an hour late. But it looks good by the time I leave. John will mainly have documentation work to do, documentation and endless checking and re-checking, looking for any mistakes I might have made in haste. I'm betting there aren't any.




Footnotes:

[1] I'm not sure if everyone will know what this means. It essentially means that Chris follows me around all day to observe what I do. He and I had the same role (RP-1, or the first RP shift of each sol, for Spirit) -- he was on shift for half the week, and I was on shift half the week, with an overlap day where we were both on shift. The schedule was set up so that he'd shadow me on one week's overlap day, I'd shadow him on the next week's overlap day, etc. This was to promote transfer of skills, knowledge, and best practices among people sharing a role. It was a very successful practice, one of many really smart ideas implemented on MER.

[2] This would be either Larry Crumpler or Larry Haskins or Larry Soderblom, I suppose. Five years later, I can't remember this presentation well enough to say which.

[3] That is, there were points in our command sequences where we were supposed to invoke command sequences that were being written by other people, but we didn't know the unique IDs for those other sequences just yet. A trivial change, once the information's available, but sometimes it could take a while to get the needed information from the right person.

3 comments:

timmyg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tglotch said...

First of all, great job on this blog. I was a grad student during the beginning of the mission working on the Mini-TES team, and reading this had brought back a lot of great memories.

Regarding footnote #2, I'm 95% sure it was Larry Crumpler. He has been a main proponent of traverse science. If I remember correctly, Larry Soderblom was mostly working on Opportunity at this point. I know Larry Haskin was in ill health, and I'm not sure he was in Pasadena at this point, although I could be wrong on that.

changcho said...

"But managers love spreadsheets; they send us our schedules in a spreadsheet."

Ha! You've got that right! Same with our manager