Spirit Sol 147

"Have a homemade cupcake," John says.

I hesitate. "Made by you, or by Helen?"[1]


"Ah, so they're edible." I take one and start eating it. Spice, with vanilla frosting. "Hey, not bad."

"We have a firm rule," he says. "When the smoke detector goes off, dinner is ready."

Thisol is a garden-variety drive. We have to maneuver a little to avoid a largish rock right in front of us, then it's a reasonably straight shot toward the hills.

We're tantalizingly close to breaking the 3km mark. At the CAM, Mark Adler asks me whether we're going to break it with this drive. I do the math. "Best case, we'll cover about 69m thisol," I tell him. "So with the 85cm stutter step at the end, that takes us to ...."

"Two thousand nine hundred ninety-nine point six meters," he finishes. 40cm short -- just 16 inches.

"Think we can scare up another two minutes for driving?"

Not today, we can't. And it probably wouldn't matter anyway; the numbers we're using are optimistic. If autonav finds a single obstacle to avoid -- a likely enough event, in this terrain -- we'll fall even shorter of the mark. But we'll be set up to cross the line nextersol. And I'll be here tomorrow, so whether it happens now or then is all the same to me.

For most of the long drive from Bonneville to the hills, we've been able to meander a little, and that helped a lot when avoiding larger obstacles such as impassable ridges. It didn't matter if our drive direction was off by five degrees this way, or ten degrees that way, as long as we were trending in the right direction. Now that we're getting so close to the hills, though, we're going to lose some of that flexibility. Indeed, the scientists are working to choose a specific target point for us at the base of the hills.

But they haven't chosen it yet. Andy, writing his mission manager report, asks Mark Adler about this. Mark shrugs. "John Grant says that if you ask ten scientists where we're going, you'll get ten answers. Actually, that's not too bad; you usually get eleven or twelve."


[1] His fiancée.

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