Opportunity Sol 707 (Spirit Sol 728)

Ah, that's a relief! Our second try at stowing the IDD in the "thinker" pose worked! The images look just as predicted, and the telemetry shows that the IDD's final position is spot on.

Now we just have to drive it. We've already put in a couple of days' work on the drive sequence, which is a good thing, because this one's going to the testbed for sure, later today.

Even with that testing, Ashitey expects me to be pretty worried about this -- "You won't sleep well tonight!" he laughs.

Won't I? I'm not so sure. "I'm not really that worried about it," I say, realizing it's true even as I say it. "I already told everyone it might take us more than one sol to do this, so it's okay if the target's not reached at the end of this drive. I mean, at this point, we just want to demonstrate that we can do a successful drive without tearing the IDD off." Maybe I shouldn't have phrased it that way, but it's essentially accurate.

Then again, Opportunity's been sitting still for almost 60 sols. Purgatory Ripple was only 40. As long as we get the damn rover in motion, I think some people wouldn't mind if we did tear the IDD off.

But that would disappoint Ashitey and Frank, who are hoping to use it tomorrow to start the 7x7x5+stereo MI mosaic of Upper and Lower Overgaard. (Well, maybe it would disappoint some of the scientists, too.) If we end up doing the whole thing, it'll be the largest-ever MI mosaic of a single object on Mars (obliterating one of my records -- the 6x4x5+stereo on Keystone). "I'm happy I'll be doing the first drive with the arm in this weird pose, but I was hoping to be in on that mosaic," I tell Ashitey.

He commiserates. "If you want it, you won't get it. That's how it works." He feels my pain, since he's been missing out on the cool Spirit drives we've done while he's been struggling with this IDD problem. "They promised me the last half-meter to Home Plate, though," he jokes.

Eventually, our testbed time rolls around, and Ashitey heads down there with Jeng to test our sequence. I stick around the sequencing room for a bit to handle the walkthrough, but then I can't stand it any more -- I have to go down there, too. Before I leave, Rich, the TUL, asks when I think they'll be done in the (notoriously time-eating) testbed. Who the hell knows? I shrug, look at the clock. It's a little after 3. "Uh, 4:27," I tell him.

By the time I get to the testbed, they're just starting to run the sequence. Amazingly, the thing runs all the way to completion without a hitch -- even the tight suspension limits work, at least in the testbed. As we're finishing up and preparing to head back up to the sequencing room, I check the time. 4:25.

I wait two minutes before calling them to tell them we're done.

Despite our success in the testbed, I'm actually somewhat pessimistic about the drive. Larry Soderblom asks me what I think are the odds it will succeed, with Upper Overgaard in the IDD work volume. "Fifty-fifty," I tell him. Then I can't resist completing the old joke: "Either it'll happen or it won't."

"I bet you a beer it'll work," he says.

I have a policy: never bet against the rovers. Besides that, I don't drink. So I'd have nothing to look forward to: either I "win," and get a beer I can't drink, or I lose, and have to buy him a beer. Nevertheless, in the spirit of camaraderie -- what the heck, just this once, I accept the bet.

[Next post: sol 732 (Opportunity sol 712), January 23.]

Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech. The IDD in the "thinker-stow" position.

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