Spirit Sol 104

The sequencing MSA is populated but unusually calm when I walk in. "Why isn't anybody panicking?" I ask. Turns out it's a restricted sol, meaning no driving or IDD work -- just remote sensing -- which simplifies things for everybody. Also meaning they don't need a rover planner today.

Nice of them to tell me. I could have slept in. I mean, I could have slept in even later.

As long as I'm here, I might as well go to the downlink assessment meeting, or whatever they're calling it these days. If there's no driving thisol, there's plenty in our future. They want to get to the Columbia Hills by sol 160, which is assuming an average drive of 69m per sol for 36 sols, plus 18 science-only sols. So we've got to net about 70m per sol, two sols out of every three, for the next month and a half. <Cartman>Schweet</Cartman>.

And it doesn't sound like Squyres (the current SOWG chair) is going to let them off the hook. For our 600m mission success criterion, they basically drew a curve (actually a line) and said, We have to ride this line. Then they basically stayed below the line, and panicked late in the game and let us do some real driving to get back on track. Not this time, says Steve: "I want you to get above the curve and maybe come down, not below it and go up." And, he points out: "For the mission-success drives, all that mattered was wheel odometry. For getting to Columbia Hills, we need straight-line distance."

And speaking of driving, Opportunity has blown us away once more: 140.9m in a single sol. 100m was going to be a difficult record for us to break; this one's likely impossible. Well, we can still be proud of what we've done. Like a bunch of losers.

I have random work to catch up on, so I'm still around for the activity plan approval meeting. Walter Goetz, a very funny and likable German (if you can believe that), has requested a Phobos observation which is a bit of a gamble, and Steve questions it. Squyres is a tough critic, but I think Walter has him figured out.

"How do we know we can even see Phobos in the daytime?" Squyres asks pugnaciously.

"We don't," says Walter. "It's an experiment -- like searching for dust devils."

"We know Phobos's albedo and the current tau; we can compute whether we expect to see anything -- unlike dust devils, which are a fortuitous event."

"Yes," Walter says politely.

"So it's a fishing expedition, and we're unsure whether there's a fish."

"Yes," Walter says in the same tone.

Squyres pauses. There's nothing there to push against. "Okay," he shrugs, and the meeting continues. Walter's experiment is in.

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