We're just about to enter a period of restricted sols; consequently, the downlink's late -- 12:40 is the nominal start time. When it shows up, everyone's congratulating me on the success of the drive. But they're more sure it was a success than I am. I really wanted this target rock right in front of the front wheels, and it's definitely farther away than that.
As more data shows up, it becomes clear that we're close enough. The rock is a flattish slab, and the lower part -- the side facing us -- is reachable, though the top is not. But as Albert Yen points out, the top is the dustiest part anyway. They're more interested in the relatively dust-free side part, which we can reach. So we won't need to bump.
The whole situation reminds me, oddly enough, of Mazatzal: a relatively short approach to a flattish rock, and we came up just a little bit short of the goal, but close enough to get the job done. This time, unlike Mazatzal, I don't feel lousy about the result. I've changed.
We plan two sols' worth of activities on this as-yet-unnamed rock. Following a now-familiar pattern, on the first sol, we'll do an MI mosaic, then switch to APXS. And on the second sol, we RAT-brush the spot and redo the MI mosaic and APXS. Back when we did this on Mazatzal, I'd have been frantic. Now I'm hardly breaking a sweat.
As the SOWG meeting wraps up, Albert points out that we need target names. "Are we still sticking with the nautical theme?" I ask. "Because I was going to suggest that we call the rock 'Pequod' and do a Moby Dick theme." This suggestion goes over well. When it comes time to pick some target names, I key the mike again: "We should call one of them 'Ishmael,'" I point out to appreciative laughter. The preliminary IDD target gets that name, though later, based on advice from the RAT team, we switch to a different target, Ahab. Well, that's OK: if you're going to be obsessed with a target for a few days, it might as well be a target named for a character who's practically a synonym for obsession.
I finish both sols' IDD sequences and hand them over to Chris. Then I check out the images from yestersol, which include some very cool MIs. The ones we have are slightly out of focus -- not surprising, since we forewent the MB touch in order to preserve the soil -- but we can see that they're going to be awesome when we get the in-focus versions. One looks like a cliff, the others like a miniature city or something.
Just before the CAM I step out to stretch and run into Mark Maimone. He fills me in on Opportunity's progress. They're seeing 99.5% slip: so far they've commanded 48m and have made 27cm of progress. This in itself is more or less what we'd expect, based on the testbed data. But what worries him is that we don't seem to have risen any yet -- it's as if we're just pushing this stuff in front of us all the way down the side of the ripple. He's concerned that we'll end up at the bottom of the ripple and still be buried, in which case we might never get back above the stuff.
On a lighter note, he points out that our expectations have dropped four orders of magnitude. "We used to do 200m sols, now we do 2cm sols," he says. And we're just as happy to get them.
[Next post: sol 497, May 27.]
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech. The view from the end of the drive, with Pequod just in reach.