Spirit Sol 57

I arrive before the downlink data does, beating it by about an hour, so I don't have a lot to do. I help Mark out with something minor and listen to the afternoon science talk, which is discussing "my" trench results. It's nothing I haven't heard by now, though.

When the data does arrive, there's an unpleasant surprise hidden in it: we didn't make it all the way back to the rock, possibly falling short as much as 10 or 15cm. This has the potential to be very bad. The IDD placement was already tricky where we started out, and we knew we were smack in the middle of a 9cm zone that would be favorable for RATting. This means that at a minimum, we needed to return to within 4.5cm of our original position, which shouldn't have been a problem.

Except we'd slipped on the previous sol's drive, probably while backing away from the rock. The mobility/IDD person on shift had noticed this late and put it into his report late -- after I'd read it already, so I didn't account for it in the drive. Which would have been perfectly easy to do, if only I'd known. We slipped about 6cm, which will leave us outside the RAT sweet spot. We yawed a little, too, which may mean that we're in an even worse position for IDDing this rock.

This is going to suck. This was already our second chance, our recovery action. The RAT guys were very concerned about this drive, because they don't think the rest of the science teams will want to hang out here for another sol as we do another bump-drive. So if we've messed this up, there's going to be some bad blood.

To make matters worse, it'll take time to find out. Maybe we're fine, maybe there will be a Congressional investigation. We don't know yet. The ground tools have to process the data for a while, and then humans get involved, and then the ground tools think some more.

Andy reports that the scientists don't want to RAT tomorrow anyway; they want to APXS and maybe MB the area they're going to RAT first. This is for a combination of power, thermal, and science reasons. The placement of these instruments is somewhat less sensitive, so that might be good news: if we need an adjustment drive after all, we might be able to do it late in the day, after the instrument placements. It will mean they won't get an overnight MB, but maybe they can live with that.

I find myself hovering, waiting for things to get to the point where I can evaluate the situation. This isn't going to help, so I join the downlink assessment meeting "already in progress," as they say. They're exploring a lot of possibilities, but they all involve staying put for now -- no Bonneville drives for at least a couple more sols. Ray is eager to know whether we're within RAT range, since this will drive all of their decisions. I start to explain that I was watching that pot and it wasn't boiling, and even as I'm saying this, Mark arrives to say we've got all the data. Ray asks for a definitive answer in time for the SOWG meeting, about an hour away.

We still don't have the terrain meshes I need for planning, but we've got enough for the RAT guys to select a target. They do this. We've lucked out: there's one spot on the rock that should be reachable, and on which we can apply enough preload to get a solid RAT grind. They give me the coordinates of the target, but since we don't have a terrain mesh yet, it's just a point (actually a point/normal) hanging in space. It's enough for me to get started, though, and I start to convince myself that it's all going to work out.

I won't really know until I get the terrain mesh, and that's not showing up. It's probably fine, already in progress, but I have no visibility into MIPL's process for producing them, so I can't say. I don't want to bug MIPL about it, but the RAT guy points out that we had a data dropout early in the pass, in one of the HAZCAM images, and this might screw up the data product and therefore MIPL's automatic pipeline. So I go see if the mesh is in progress, and it turns out it's a good thing I did so. They were waiting for some other data to show up before they started, but I tell them I don't need it and ask for them to start on the HAZCAM mesh, which they do.

(Incidentally. MIPL has a news article posted on the wall; it's the recent AP story that quotes John Wright's description of the rover's traverse behavior: "We go, stop, go, stop, go, stop." They've even blown up the quote and put it next to the article. I think this is a good description, but somehow it's becoming an in-joke. At one point, Andy addresses me in this wise: "O Mighty Rover Planner, Who Goes and Stops and Goes and Stops." I'm pretty stressed at that point, but I can't help it, this makes me laugh.)

The mesh shows up just in time for me to verify (with Frank's help) before the SOWG meeting starts that the sequencing is likely to work with the desired target: we can reach it with all of our instruments, and that's all we really need. Despite the focus on the eventual RATting of this rock, the short term is another matter; tomorrow is dedicated to a pre-RAT APXS and MB. I spend most of the SOWG meeting roughing out the arm motions to make sure I haven't missed anything, but it seems to be OK.

My stress level is slowly dropping, and the sequencing is going well. I brought in cookies as a snack, and now I put them out on the table for everyone; Scott Doudrick does the same with some kind of yummy fudge snack. The consensus is that this is vitally necessary, in order to make up for the sudden recent lack of free ice cream, and both snacks start to disappear.

I finish sequencing and walk around a little to unwind. I hang out with Ashitey for a few minutes, and he tells me he's at last getting a chance to really play with RoSE and thinks it's awesome. "You should get an award," he says. "Seriously. You should get an award." I give him a cookie.

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