Spirit Sol 32

Bob Bonitz asks me, "Don't you ever take a day off?" Nope.

He's in early, for Mars time, because he's also signed up to work on another upcoming Mars mission, Project Phoenix. Heedless of the fact that Bob now lives on Mars, Phoenix is scheduling meetings at a time that equates to about 3AM for him. So his schedule is really screwed up, even by Martian standards.

Regardless, he's focused on an annoying problem with the rovers. The robotic arm, when extended, is causing the rovers to tilt slightly more than expected, and as a result our instrument placement isn't quite as good as it could be. The difference is only 4 or 5mm, within our error budget (if only barely), but it bothers Bob that we could have done better. He's thinking about ways to fix it for the next rover -- or even for these, maybe; if they let him patch the flight software, he can tell the rovers how to correct for the error. He's talking to me about it, but in his head he's writing the code. I know the look.

Nothing is happening today, at least nothing that affects me immediately. Today is reserved entirely for reformatting Spirit's unruly flash memory, so nobody has much to do. I catch up on my email, discovering a request for an NBC camera crew to watch us drive the rovers. I say it's OK with me, but I'm betting Cooper (the other rover driver CCd on the email) will be the one they end up talking to. (I might sneak into the Sequencing MSA and put visible Red Hat stickers on the monitors before they arrive, though. I figure if you do it when nobody's around, everyone will assume it's something official.)

Since nobody else has much to do either, the scientists plan an abbreviated downlink assessment meeting followed by a mass trip to a nearby Mexican restaurant. Man, you haven't lived until you've gone to a Mexican restaurant with a bunch of exogeologists. On second thought, I decide to skip that.[1]

The downlink assessment meeting is even shorter for me than for everyone else, though. I'm just there long enough to hear them say that they'll resume the normal tactical schedule tomorrow and to hear them report that Cake looks just like the other nearby rocks, when I'm interrupted by Mark Maimone, who had asked for some of my time to talk about our upcoming traverse.

The growing pressure to drive may lead the scientists to skip examining White Boat -- the destination of my currently planned drive -- after all. If they don't care about going there, Mark wants to try a different route, one that will help him gather more information about the behavior of his navigation code on Mars. We talk about it for a while and end up planning a traverse in the other direction, one that relies a little more on the rover's autonomy. This drive will also require a little less downlink data volume than the White Boat drive, might shave half a sol or so off of the overall drive to Bonneville Crater, and in addition it will generate a little movie (taking low-resolution pictures every 35cm or so) as we go, which will be a very cool outreach product. Once we get the sequence into reasonable shape, we arrange to meet in the testbed tomorrow to try it out. And I fire off email about this decision to the media office, in case NBC wants to watch ....


[1] Big mistake! As it happens, since then I have gone to a Mexican restaurant with a bunch of exogeologists, and you know what? Turns out it's a lot of fun, and great conversation, too. D'oh!


James said...

Thanks for publishing this journal. I'm absolutely hooked!

Kimberly said...

Italian restaurants with a bunch of exogeologists are _almost_ as fun, but not quite.