Spirit Sol 477

Yestersol's drive was too complex. I was thinking about it last night, and my hopes sank lower and lower. We should have broken it into multiple sols. We shouldn't have tried to thread the needle at the end. I should have looked more carefully for obstacles.

Of course, it went splendidly. (If I learned anything from experience, I'd have been expecting this. But I never do.) Dan Moyers tells me the good news as I walk into the SOWG meeting. "Excellent!" I reply. "I was all ready to blame Chris if it went wrong."

As has become our Friday custom, we're planning the rover's activities for the whole weekend. There's lots of IDD work, and lots of remote sensing. (In keeping with the nautical theme of Jib Sheet, most of the remote-sensing targets get names such as "gunwale," "keel," etc. They're taking some pictures of the tracks as well, and Charles Budney suggests the name "wake" for that target.) We have a limited time -- not only are we supposed to stick to a 10-hour day anyway, but uplink's at 19:00, which pretty much enforces that limit thisol. As a result of this tight schedule, Dan rejects a request from the atmospheres team -- it'll just be too hard to fit it in in the time we've got, given the complexity of the overall plan.

As you can imagine, the atmospheres team isn't too happy about that, and they push back hard. But Dan sticks to his guns, and Emily backs him up. "The resource we need to optimize here is team planning time," she says. One of the scientists turns to me off mike and says, "So the engineering team is no longer competent to --" but he's interrupted, and he never finishes the thought. Just as well.

In the room behind us, the Opportunity team is having its own debate, joined by some higher management. Opportunity's been stuck on a dune for the last few weeks, buried up to the tops of the wheels -- almost up to the bottom of the WEB -- and management's been paranoid about allowing us to drive it out. I notice that Jay Torres was sitting by a window that afforded a view into that room, so I ask him if he saw any of the presentation. He shakes his head no, as Chris chimes in, "The content is, we can be a lander or we can drive backward a couple of meters."

"Which we knew three weeks ago," I say.

"Yeah," he replies, "but now our ass is covered."

Yeah, that probably sums it up.

Back downstairs, Emily asks our new TDL what he thought of the acrimony in the SOWG meeting. "I can see why they keep the scientists and engineers in physically separate locations," he says diplomatically.

"Well, it used to be better," Emily says. "But the vehicles have gotten harder to operate. We used to have no power, so we had no concerns about thermal issues or planning time -- there was no power to do anything. But now we're power-rich again, and we'd forgotten there were other constraints."

This is true, but I think it's incomplete. Another part of the problem is that the scientists just aren't here any more. They're voices on a phone, and that makes it easier for both sides to degenerate into an us-versus-them mentality. Worse, they simply don't get to see the whole process any more -- most of them sign off when they're done with their part of the planning, but we keep working for hours. If they can't see what effect their decisions have on the sequencing team, how can they hope to make wise decisions about what can and can't get done? I point this out to Emily, and semi-jokingly suggest a solution: "We should get Squyres to require all of the science team to stay online until we're done. You want us to do some observation that's going to take us two extra hours to fit into the plan? Fine, but you stay here until we leave."

I think Emily likes the idea, but I doubt she'll pitch it to Steve. I might. If the problem gets worse, I might have to.

But at least the rover planners have an easy sol. It's just some light IDD work. Chris is done with the sequences maybe half an hour after the SOWG meeting ends. We hand off and I make some minor changes, but nothing particularly urgent.

Since we're so far ahead of the game, I consider going ahead with the time-consuming process of building an MPEG movie of the planned IDD work for the weekend, which I customarily attach to the sol's uplink report. But when we're this far ahead, something always happens to change the plan, and today's no exception. When we show the animation at the activity plan approval meeting, we find out that the science team changed its mind about which IDD targets they wanted us to use, and somehow the word didn't make it to us. No big deal; that's why we do that. I have it fixed within 15 minutes or so.

But I was right not to go ahead and build the movie early. Huh. Seems like sometimes I do learn from experience, after all.

[Next post: sol 480 (Opportunity sol 460), May 10.]

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