Spirit Sol 713

I couldn't resist checking in on the drive from home last night, and I was somewhat disappointed. Shortly after starting the autonav segment of her drive, Spirit found herself in a cul-de-sac. Her existing path planner isn't smart enough to find its way back out when this happens, so she just struggles with it for a while and gives up in frustration. Total progress: 50m or so -- respectable, but much less than we hoped for.

"What are the chances we'll get outta the cul-de-sac and make progress on sol 712?" Steve asks me just before the SOWG meeting starts. That's the final sol of the weekend plan, whose data should start flowing in in half an hour or so.

"Slim," I answer. "Less than ten percent."

"Well, that's Mars. The plan for today and tomorrow is gonna be drive, drive, drive."

"Well, if you insist," I shrug as he laughs.

When the data arrives at last, it confirms my prediction. I'd have been happier to be wrong, but so be it. I don't have much time to worry about it, not only because we've got a sol to plan, but also because today's Spirit's "Earth-birthday," as Brenda calls it -- the second Earth-year anniversary of her landing on Mars. I still have trouble believing it -- not just believing that they've lasted so long, but also that I've been on mission operations for this long.

So we interrupt sequencing long enough for a small celebration in the SOWG room. Jim Erickson and Charles Elachi and Pete Theisinger and Steve Squyres all say nice things, and thank and congratulate the rest of the team, and then we're back to work.

An occasion like this one is a time for personal reflection, too. It's so corny to say it, but I've grown and changed a lot in those two years. I can see it in looking over some of my earliest notes on ops. I never thought of myself as lacking self-confidence, but back then I was ... well ... I'm different now. These rovers have changed me, and they've changed me for the better. They're old friends to me now. We've been through a lot together.

What better way to celebrate than by dodging some rocks, putting the pedal to the metal, and lighting out for Home Plate? So I do that -- or, rather, I ask Spirit to do it. As far as I'm concerned, there's really no difference any more, if there ever was.[1]

[1] Happy birthday, Spirit, my love.

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