I'm back on shift today. We're planning only one sol, sol 62, but the two-sol plan that ended yestersol seems to have gone very well. Yestersol, in particular, they did an excellent drive: as I'm sitting in the SMSA watching the data come in, they report 29.283m!
It turns out to have been a little farther than that, incidentally: at the downlink assessment meeting, having gotten more complete data, they report 31m, to a round of applause.
The other news at the downlink assessment meeting is slightly more bleak. They're going to have to curb their appetite for data for a while. The legacy panorama is finished (which news also brings a round of applause), but it used up a huge amount of their available data volume. As Dave Des Marais memorably puts it, they're now like a snake that's just swallowed a pig. It doesn't help that we're not doing the best job of managing the data we've gotten -- we're just now getting some PANCAM images that were intended for drive decisions several sols ago. So not only are we not getting this data when we need it, but it ends up blocking other data that is now more relevant. Oops.
LTP reports that we've now driven 226m, total, of 300m needed for minimum mission success. For once, we've climbed above the red minimum-success line on Dave's chart. We're still unsure exactly how far we have left to reach the rim, but we should get there in another six sols or so. There's growing support among the scientists to reach the rim, not only because we need the mileage for mission success, but also because some conference is coming up and they want crater images to show off. Well, whatever it takes ....
We probably will not drive into Bonneville crater when we get there, at least according to Matt Golombek. If it's as they expect, the inner crater walls will be too steep for us to drive down. And even if we get in, the same slopes might well keep us from being able to get back out. Not good. So we'll probably have to creep around the rim, peeping inside when we can. (Hey, that's a good name for this: "creep and peep.")
Tomorrow's plan is a simple one: unstow the IDD just long enough to MI the soil, then restow and drive. It gets even easier when they later cut the MI observation (for data-volume reasons) and it turns into a plain drive.
Nothing much is going to happen until the SOWG, but I need to know how far we can drive tomorrow using the data we've got. The data was still being received when the meeting started, so I leave early to go look at it with Mark and Rich. It's rocky off to our right, and our left doesn't look much better. Straight ahead is relatively smooth sailing, except for a depression we can't see into. For safety's sake, we have to treat the depression as an obstacle -- even though we could almost certainly drive safely through it -- so we're going to have to take the long way around, zig-zagging between some hazards to the northeast of us.
On the trek to the rim, they won't do much IDD work (maybe every other sol, and not much of it on any given sol), so it's a perfect time for them to do atmospheric studies. They're planning more of that over the next few sols, including, tomorrow, the long-awaited Earth image. In the middle of the bitterly cold Martian night, they're going to wake up and look up at the sky. If they get lucky, they'll catch a glimpse of a pale blue dot the rovers once called home.
"Everyone needs to go outside at 2:30AM and wave tomorrow," someone says. They're kidding, obviously, and anyway, as seen from Pasadena, Mars will be below the horizon when the time comes. Spirit might see Earth, but she won't see our part of it -- her hometown. The next night, when 2:30 comes, I go outside and wave to the stars anyway.
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech. A rover's-eye view of the way to Bonneville.