Spirit Sol 766

"The scientists," Nicole tells me as we settle in for the SOWG meeting, "are all in a tizzy about not receiving any data."

"A tizzy?" I repeat, rolling it around. "A tizzy, a tizzy ... they're all in a heap." She giggles.

I never find out what provoked the tizzy. We seem to have all of our drive data, at least, and we're going to use it; we're starting our partial circumnavigation of Home Plate. Our egress drive went perfectly, and Friday's meeting resolved that we'd traverse the thing clockwise. (This was rather a surprise: counterclockwise was the strongly preferred direction among the oddsmakers, as that path offered much better science. Unfortunately for the oddsmakers -- and for science -- it also offered much worse solar energy, and recent orbital imagery revealed that a troublesome valley blocked our way. Moreover, there was reason to think that the appealing stratigraphy of the counterclockwise route would be obscured by talus. So clockwise won in a squeaker.)

We'd hoped to hug the rim all the way, but the area nearest Home Plate is relatively smooth. Yeah ... a little too smooth. Visually, it's somewhere between the kind of hard-packed, gravelly stuff our rover eats for breakfast, and the kind of shifty, loose, Arad-like stuff we get hopelessly bogged down in. Expert opinion shrugs, so we decide to exercise the better part of valor. I mean to say, we drive around it. This takes us farther from Home Plate, and thus lengthens the drive, but if it keeps us from getting mired in the mud (pray forgive the poetic license), the detour will be well worth it.

At the end of our blind drive, as we're rounding the corner of Home Plate, we have a choice: up onto a rocky, west-tilted ridge, or across the smooth stuff. I aim Spirit right across the smooth stuff -- with a slip check after just a couple of meters, and periodic checks beyond. If it's good for driving, we'll cruise along nicely on autonav. If not, we won't go far into it before the slip check stops us, so we won't have far to back out.

[Next post: sol 768, March 1.]

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