Spirit Sol 697

Amazingly, the drive went absolutely perfectly. During sequencing, I'd realized that if we changed the direction we turned when scuffing, we should be able to get a perfect view of Comanche in the FHAZ -- and there it is, large as life. The NCAM images are spectacular, showing just what we expected -- the larger, main part of Comanche on the left, a smaller spur on the right, and a kind of saddle in between.

The scuff, too, is right where it's supposed to be, although the soil here was hard enough that the scuff (Squyres derides it as a "smudge") isn't scientifically interesting. As a result, they decide after some discussion to bag IDDing the scuff and just do a couple of sols of remote sensing followed by an approach to Comanche.

So that's all good. But the OSS -- our shared filesystem -- crashed over the weekend, which means that all the automated processing of downlinked data is screwed up and backlogged, which in turn delays our start. And, of course, we're still in tight sols, and we're trying to do a three-sol plan today. All in all, it's a perfect day for a critical piece of infrastructure to have hiccups.

Fortunately, our drive is going to be perfectly simple. The most obvious approach, a Hillary-style drive partway up onto Comanche, won't work; the exposed rock face is too far up, and we'd have to cross too much loose sand to get there. But when we cast around, we find another solution, a couple of low, flat rocks lying on the ground on the northeast part of Comanche. They're only about 10m away, and we've got a nice, smooth path straight to 'em. Admittedly, they're dusty-looking, except for one small, possibly more-or-less vertical face, but them's the breaks. So that's nice and easy.

Only one fly in that ointment: when we show Steve where we're thinking of heading, he sums up his reaction in these words: "I hate it."

Oooo ... kaaaaayyyyy ....

Well, there is one other option we'd previously dismissed. We could just climb up into the saddle between the two chunks of rock; plenty of good stuff up there. This is more difficult, and somewhat more dangerous. Not to mention that thisol's RP-2 is Frank -- normally an Opportunist, not a Spirit -- which makes the whole thing a shade more risky.

We do it anyway. If all goes well, Spirit will climb more than a meter up a rocky 14-degree slope, hang a right, and drive across a relatively narrow channel to the spur. To her right will be a sharp sandy slope, which we might or might not get stuck on; to the left, a wide sandy patch, which we could bog down in. Monday, we'll be about 8m from here, with Comanche Spur dead in the center of our IDD work volume.

That, or we'll never hear from Spirit again, and have to live with ourselves forever.

Oddly enough, even though part of me says this is insane, I have so much history with this rover, and so much trust in her, that I'm not as worried about it as I'd expect. Am I right to think so? Monday morning, I'll know for sure.

Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech. Our final front HAZCAM, showing Comanche right in front of us.

Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech. A NAVCAM view of the same scene, aimed at the "saddle."

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