I was worried about yestersol's drive -- needlessly, as it turns out. (I can't believe I'm still doing that.) It went damn near perfectly, putting us about 10cm from our goal.
Now that we're here, it looks like the way ahead of us is not scary after all. Quite the contrary: with only the FHAZ and a single NCAM wedge to go by, we can drive about 20m down a nice smooth lane, with only a bit of leftward curve to follow the trough.
John Callas has brought a couple of blind students in to observe. I have some time before the SOWG starts, so I talk with them a little. They're eager and enthusiastic (who can blame them?). John told me about them the other day, floating the idea of having one or more of them shadow a rover driver for a while. I told him I'd be happy to help with this, but wasn't sure exactly how we'd achieve that -- it's a very visual job. But we'll figure something out. In the meanwhile, they're going to help make our Web pages more accessible to blind people, or something.
Since the way ahead of us is clear, the SOWG grants us even more time to drive -- three and a half hours thisol. We'll go about 20m. The only thing I dislike about this decision is that it makes it even worse if the drive fails, because so much science gets pushed out to make way for it. But I don't think they really care that much; there's very little good science they can do before we get to the Erebus Highway anyhow, so they're actually doing themselves a favor by letting us drive as much as we can each sol.
When we look at the planned drive in an overhead map, it looks as if we could potentially make it to the Erebus Highway in just two or three more sols. We won't -- if only because we've run out of tricks for working around the data-products limit and might need to shorten the next drive to get some crap downlinked -- but we're getting close. For several sols, we've glimpsed it -- maybe -- in the distance, in the NCAMs. Very, very close.
[Next post: sol 546 (Opportunity sol 525), July 16.]