Opportunity Sol 765 (Spirit Sol 784)

We're continuing naming stuff according to a Western theme. Right now it's stops along the Chisholm Trail, and one of those, it turns out, is Fort Scott. I desperately want them to choose this name, and they're on the verge of doing so -- but unfortunately, they change their minds. They've already used names from stops farther along the trail, and don't want to go out of order. Whether this means they'll come back and use it or not, I don't know. I only know I'm disappointed. How cool would that have been?

Well, I'll just have to derive my joy from someplace else. It's not hard to find something: Frank and I think we can get about 50m out of this drive, another strong sol if we can do it. Truth is, it won't be all that hard: follow a trough, skate along some outcrop, rack up the meters.

Our planned path is basically south, but Tim Parker thinks we should head a different direction. He's got a route picked out that would take us east, and we consider it carefully. The good part is, it would be an even longer drive -- maybe 70m. The bad part is, it doesn't take us directly toward Victoria Crater. There's a huge, apparently mostly flat annulus around Victoria, and our plan is to head south and hit that. It looks like the stuff we were cruising across back in the days of 200m sols, so we're thinking that once we're there, we can zoom across it to Victoria in no time. Anything south, or a bit east of south, drops us into that zone, so we don't see the point of heading east at a slower pace now.

So it's a 50m drive thisol, not a 70m drive -- but it's taking us directly where we want to go.

The relatively good news on Opportunity contrasts sharply with the persistently grim news from Spirit. A bunch of people filter in from the latest anomaly meeting, and they're looking pretty glum. Alicia says the participants split into two camps. Chris Leger's faction said we needed to stand down, go into the testbed, and figure out how to drive with only the remaining five wheels. Jake Matijevic's faction responded that we didn't have time to stand down and figure it out -- we need to drive, and drive now, or we're dead. Alicia notes that Spirit seems to have hit a perfect storm -- "We were late getting started, and then this happened, and winter's coming, and we can't climb, and we're going into restricted sols ...." she trails off, shaking her head sadly.

"I know," Frank commiserates. "I've never seen Chris so down about the rover's prospects as he is now."

To stave off the effects of restricted sols for a time, the Spirit team is going to Mars time for a while -- maybe just a week. Mentioning Mars time recalls memories of days gone by, and soon the anecdotes are flying. The most astonishing one comes from Julie, who was so deep into cruise ops for Opportunity, she says, that she didn't hear about the original Spirit anomaly -- when we lost touch with her for a while on sol 18 -- until it was over.

And I thought I was always the last one to hear about these things.

[Next post: sol 787 (Opportunity sol 766), March 21.]

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