Spirit Sol 175

The conversation going on behind me piques my curiosity. "I hear visodom-related words," I say to Chris.

"Yeah," Chris replies, "we're gonna do it on our next drive on Spirit."

I cock an eyebrow at him. "For real, or are we just teasing Mark again?"

He laughs. "For real," he says. Mark will be pleased. I hope.

I continue checking my email. The press office sent me email asking me to do an interview with one of the reporters who's here covering Cassini -- he also wants to write an article about the challenges of driving the rovers on slopes. I'm willing, but since I haven't done this yet, I'm not the best person for them to talk to.

But the Opportunity drivers have all kinds of experience on slopes, stemming from the months they spent in Eagle Crater. So I head upstairs to see if Frank's interested in it.

As it turns out, he's already been offered a chance at this one, and declined for lack of time. We decide to throw it to Brian and Jeff instead. We actually end up talking mostly about houses -- he and his wife, Leah, spent a year and a half searching for their house. And that was their second round of looking; they had given up for a couple of years, after becoming discouraged by an unsuccessful earlier round of house-hunting.

We eventually get distracted from that semi-depressing discussion by rover power curves. Art's got a graph plotting the available solar power against time, for different assumptions about atmospheric dust settling. Even under the pessimistic assumptions, we still have enough energy each sol (200 Watt-hours) to do useful work at sol 720 -- that's two years.

Unless something else breaks first, of course. Spirit will become significantly less mobile when (if) the right front wheel seizes up, but at least we'll still be able to drive it. Other than that, there aren't any looming problems.

Oddly, Opportunity seems to be developing similar trouble with one of its wheels. There's a joking suggestion that this is simply sympathetic pain, like husbands whose backs and feet start to hurt when their wives are pregnant. It might turn out to be nothing, or so we all hope.

Today I earn my keep as an RP-2. One of thisol's goals is to get some microscopic images of the side of the rock we're currently exploring. Chris chooses a target and sequences the MI stack, then hands off to me and leaves. Later I notice that, because of the angle at which we're having the IDD approach the rock's side, the APXS gets awfully close to the soil. We'd probably be OK, but to be on the safe side, I choose a shallower angle, one that still lets us see the rock face they're interested in without endangering the IDD.

I miss being RP-1.

But I guess a side benefit of being an RP-2 is that I'm here when the NASA Code T folks stop by. These are the NASA HQ people working on implementing the President's return-to-Moon/go-to-Mars thing. They're interested in our tools and processes and stuff, so as a way of demonstrating our current capabilities, I show them an animation of thisol's IDD sequence. When they ask if we have any ideas for them about the manned Mars mission, I don't even have to think about it: "Send me!"

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