The IDD sequencing is already done (despite a moment where they were discussing entirely changing it), so we're able to focus entirely on the drive. And since I picked out the waypoints yesterday, this isn't too bad. We're going back down more or less the way we came up, so if we hit our waypoints closely enough -- which visodom will help us do -- we know just about exactly what Spirit will experience on the way. It's a steep climb down, with tilts hovering just over 20 degrees, and only a narrow safe channel. To one side, the terrain slopes away even more sharply; to the other, a jumble of exposed bedrock would perhaps take our tilt over the 25-degree limit. "This is one of those drives where you wish you could be there to see it happen," Squyres marvels.
Fortunately, John and I have gotten darn good at this. We mustn't become overconfident, but our success in nailing long approaches, threading needles, and so on, has given us confidence that this will go pretty well.
For no readily apparent reason, the day ends up taking longer than you'd think it would; we're here something like 11 hours. Saina feels bad about the outcome, but Steve gives her a pep talk.
"Look at what we're doin'!" he says. "Complicated IDD work, then a really cool drive, then PANCAM observations of the Phobos transit. Now, imagine going back to sol 40 and saying you're gonna plan all of those in one day. Really, think about it!"
He's right, as usual. Like the rovers themselves, this team has come a long way. And if we can make it to McCool Hill in time, the best is yet to come.
[Next post: sol 766, February 27.]
Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech. A frame from the Phobos transit imaging. Hey, we're not all about the driving! The astronomy is pretty darn amazing, too.