Opportunity Sol 766 (Spirit Sol 787)

Our 50m drive went just as we'd planned. (Well, so it turned out to be only about 49m. That's fine.) And we're set up for another decent drive, this time probably only about 30-35m. We'll probably have a lot of these drives, just plodding along, hopping ripples and seeking friendly patches of outcrop as we go.

We're just about exactly 2km from Victoria now, which makes it about 66 drive sols away at 30m per drive sol, or 40 drive sols away at 50m per drive sol. The real answer's probably somewhere in there -- likely on the low end, I'm sorry to say, since there will be some sols in which we make little direct progress for one reason or another. And, of course, that's drive sols, not total sols -- we can't drive every sol. So it'll be a while before we get to see Victoria Crater (or "Vicky," as I like to call her).

Moreover, harshing the buzz we got from our strong progress, Tim Parker and Matt Golombek come by to tell us they think we went in the wrong direction. They show us a high-resolution map of the area and point out where they think we went down a route that will present us with less outcrop and bigger ripples, which of course is exactly the opposite of what we want. They think we should have headed more easterly on our last drive. This is the conversation Tim and Frank were having Friday, only Tim never came by and showed us the map, so we didn't realize what his objection was.

I honestly don't think the situation's as bad as they paint it. In any event, we're able to spot a trail of outcrop that's somewhat comparable to the one they'd have had us take, so I think we'll be okay.

Later, some other stuff begins to come to a head, some stuff I haven't been writing about. A while back, I chose to spend most of my time driving the rovers rather than working on RoSE, and that's set in motion a chain of events that looks like it's going to end with JPL's defunding RoSE -- spending gobs of money to replace it with something else, which if they're lucky will be as good. With RoSE goes my easiest path into the world of MSL, which might mean there's no more rover driving for me after the MER rovers die. Worse yet, I might, depending on the results of a conversation I'll have with my section manager tomorrow morning, be moved into a different section, under a group supervisor who today showed all but open hostility to me. (Which is not just my opinion; it's shared by the other participant in the conversation.)

I find this very depressing. The rovers are breaking down, and so, it feels, is my life. Or, at least, my job -- I don't really make the distinction. And maybe that's the problem.

Well, whatever tomorrow holds, today they paid me money to drive a Mars rover. Life can't be all bad if it has that in it.

[Next post: sol 789 (Opportunity sol 768), March 23.]

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