So we're up on Home Plate. It could hardly have gone better. Autonav refused to drive the final 1.5m, but it wouldn't have made any real difference; we're perched right on the rim, with a splendid view of the interior of Home Plate.
Including, not too surprisingly, some terrific rocks. There's a bunch of stratigraphic layered material, light-toned rocks (don't get me started), a layered rock immediately behind us in the RHAZ. There's even what looks like a "lava bomb," a rock that starts off as a glob of lava spit out by a volcano; it freezes back into a roughly spherical or football-shaped rock in the air, before it can even hit -- like the way they used to cast lead shot.
The scientists are doing their kids-in-a-candy-store act. I never get tired of it. But Justin decides he's going to put a bit of a damper on things.
"Are we still leaving by sol 760?" he asks pointedly.
Oded's answer is equivocal, something to the effect that he hasn't heard anything different from Steve yet, but without completely rejecting the possibility of staying longer.
He moves on, resuming talking excitedly with the other scientists about which rocks we should choose, but a few minutes later, Justin interrupts again. "Hey, Home Plate's a big place," Justin says. "Why don't we drive across it and see what we see there?"
This is something I love about Justin. As much as I dig the science team, there's a part of me that knows we need to get on the damn road, for the rover's health and safety. Justin manages to express that part of myself, better than I could -- and since he's doing it, I don't have to, which makes it even better.
I don't think his message really gets across (maybe I should have spoken up after all), but they do manage to focus long enough to pick a destination. They picked the big broad shelf of layered material. It'll be an easy drive, looping in a big arc, then turning and zooming straight to our final position. Once again, we're doing an approach of over 10m. We've been doing a lot of these lately, and nailing them one after another, on a vehicle that wasn't designed for more than a 2m approach.
I love this rover.
And that's a reason the subject Saina brings up later in the day is one of my least favorites, a memento mori. But she raises it in a humorous way. For some reason, they're talking about the last piece of free ice cream, which has languished in one of the freezers all this time. You can see the idea hit her, her eyes widening. "I think when the rovers die, we should have a ceremony where we bury the last piece of the free ice cream!" she exclaims. "Or maybe, we all take a bite, and then we bury the stick or whatever."
Time and chance happeneth to all rovers. When they go, I think that will be a good way to say goodbye.
Many years from now, of course. When I'm an old, old man.
[Next post: sol 762, February 23.]
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech. A rear HAZCAM view looking up over the top of Home Plate.