Spirit Sol 125

We didn't cover as much ground yestersol as we should have. We should have covered 100m or more, but we only made it 80.28m before the rover got spooked by its shadow again. They updated some parameters a while ago to try to solve that problem, but apparently they still have some fine-tuning to do.

But we're on for the three-hour drive tomorrow. We have a chance -- a small one, mind you, but a chance -- of beating even Opportunity's 140m record. Art wants this so badly he can taste it.

We didn't pick the best terrain to try it in. The way in front of us is blocked by a set of ridges, starting about 40m away, which are mostly too tall to drive over. John has planned a zig-zagging path to take us through them to better terrain beyond, but this requires more precise driving than I feel comfortable with -- particularly at that distance. When he shows me the plan, we spend some time looking around at alternatives as well. I spot a relatively low point at the right-hand end of the PANCAM data, one we could easily drive over. It's 60m away, and flat, straight driving all the way. After that, we can turn on the autonav. I talk John into abandoning the work he's done so far and aiming for this spot instead.

The drive becomes simple, just two waypoints -- one blind, one more for autonav. We'll have 40 minutes of blind driving (taking us 60m), followed by about 2.5 hours on autonav. At best, the autonav might take us 87m, so our best case for nextersol is 147m. Opportunity's record is 140.996.

But power concerns interfere. Our TAP tries hard not to, but in the end he has to cut 10 minutes out of the drive, meaning our best case will be about 142m. If the rover has to stop for any reason -- if it has to avoid a single obstacle along that path -- that will slow it down enough that we won't break the record. In this terrain, it's inconceivable that we'll go so far without autonav finding an obstacle, so mentally I've already given up on breaking the record. I don't care about it, anyway. It's more interesting to better our own personal best, and we're going to do that -- we'll set a new record for Spirit, a good one. It'll be a good drive.

Steve Squyres stops in to wish us luck. "I'd love to see you break the century mark [100m], and beat Opportunity, too." He shakes his head in wonder at how far we've come. "I remember seeing Jennifer Trosper standing up at some early meeting and saying the project can't commit to more than 325m, total."

Then he comes to the real reason he's eager for us to beat Opportunity's record. "When Opportunity's done noodling around at Endurance Crater, we'll need something to light a fire under the science team."

Ah-HAH! He's just using us. Bastard!

[Next post: sol 129, May 14.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

325 meters, total? Wow.. really drives home how well the MERs have done.