That could not have gone better, it really couldn't. I was momentarily alarmed by the apparently large rock we'd driven over, but I was overestimating its size badly -- it was merely 12cm, not 20cm, and thus not a hazard. And as for where we ended up, well ... in front of us is a broad, relatively shallow ramp, only about 10 degrees in slope. To our left and right are impassable steps, but we're going to be able to just turn slightly from our comm heading and glide straight off of Home Plate. Then we can turn and cruise along Mitcheltree ridge until it peters out, and set ourselves up for heading on toward McCool Hill in the next plan (another two sols from now, thanks to MRO).
This could have been much worse. Any number of ways, we could have lost several sols, the sun drifting farther away all the time. Mars just gave us this one, I have to say. And we're only too happy to take it.
Ashley's already been taking a look at the downlink, and since she's shadowing me today anyhow, I have her go ahead and work out the drive. That goes fine (although she puts in a slip check that I think is completely superfluous, grumble grumble).
All in all, it's a relatively easy day. This leaves us time for plenty of demos for visitors, one of whom is Julie Townsend's mother, Nancy, who's out here from Michigan. ("So you must be kind of impressed with Julie," I say to her mom, exercising my talent for ironic understatement. You can lose a thing like that if you don't use it, you know.) She and her friend Annette seem to be suitably impressed, but I get a different picture after they move on.
"It's funny you said that about 'being kind of impressed' with Julie," Ashley whispers to me. "Julie's told me a lot about her parents, her mom in particular, always discouraging her when she was a kid. She'd say she wanted to grow up and be in the space program, and her mom would go, 'Oh, you could never do that.'"
My relationship with Julie has always felt a little strained and awkward -- I like her plenty, I just never felt we got along all that well. Now I have a completely different view of it, and of her. No wonder she seems to feel that she has a lot to prove. Maybe more people should let her know she's proved it. I think I'll try to be nicer to her.
Our other guests are friends of Alicia Vaughan's family. She asked me specifically to give them the MER demo. ("Because you're so good at it," she says. I should start charging, I tell her.) The guests are a married couple. The guy's a friend of Greg's (Alicia's husband's) father -- his ex-business partner, I think -- and his wife married Alicia and Greg. So they're important to her. They're bright and funny, the kind of people Alicia fits right in with. OK, for them, no charge.
I still have the drive up on my workstation when Jim Erickson comes in to check up on everything. Like everyone else, he's nervous about our power situation -- we're down to 366 W-hr, about a third of our peak. As he leaves, he says to me, sotto voce: "Get us the hell out of here!"
I'm trying, Jim. And, lucky for us, Mars seems to be helping.
[Next post: sol 776, March 10.]